The National Badminton Centre in Lisburn this weekend hosts three provincial competitions attracting impressive entries from throughout the length and breadth of the country though considerable attention will be focussed on the Ulster U17 Open in particular, where Alpha’s Matthew Cheung will be returning from leading
the Ireland team in the U17 European Championships in Poland.
Seeded No1 in the Boy’s singles Matthew is seeking to retain all three titles he won in last year’s competition having beaten his doubles partner Vincent Pontanosa in the final of the singles 21-15 21-16 and they were victorious in the doubles too, beating Scott Guildea and Ben Lawlor 21-17 21-12 with few ruling out a repeat of last year’s final.
Cheung and Sophia Noble secured the Mixed doubles title with a straight sets win over David Downey and Leonie Ward, having ended the hopes of No2 seeds Pontanosa and Fox 22-20 in the third but this year Scott Guildea and Laura Comer have been seeded No2, and they will have to see off Julia O’Reilly and Alpha’s Stuart
McCollam in the semi-final while Vincent Pontanosa and Siofra Flynn are seeded in the top half of the draw.
Sophia Noble will be going for a hat-trick of Ulster titles too and without a doubt, after taking the European U17 Individual competition by storm, beating the No6 seed and No11 seed before her challenge came to an end in the quarter-final, she will be extremely difficult to beat.
Seeded No1 in the singles she is due to face Julia O’Reilly in the final though Paige Woods may have an opportunity to challenge her if she can upset Chloe McGrane, while Chloe Woods will be hoping to make a good start to her season.
Laura Comer partners Sophia in the doubles and they are seeded top, and are expected to win through to face Chloe Koay and Julia O’Reilly in the final.
CHEUNG STARS IN EUROPEAN U17
To suggest that Matthew Cheung has had a busy few months prior to the 2019 season getting underway is most certainly a massive understatement and was part of an Ireland side competing in the European U17 Championships in Poland followed by the Individual competition.
Matthew got Ireland off to the start they may have been dreaming off, with Ireland snatching a narrow 3-2 victory over Italy, though the Alpha player had to pull out all the stops in his singles before coming through against Italy’s Luca Zhou 21-18 21-18, and also partnered Pontanosa to record a difficult 21-17 21-14 victory over Alessandro Gozzini/Alessandro Stan in the doubles.
Finland were next up for Ireland and they were to lose 4-1 but there were a number of very close matches and Cheung was to push Erik Li all the way, pulling back from one set down to draw level by taking the second 21-12 and within a whisper of clinching the decider at 20-20.
In the Mixed doubles and partnering Sophia Noble, the pair faced Robin Jantti and Nella Nyqvist and were far from being overawed by their opponents, capturing the opening set 21-18, only for their opponents to level by taking the second set 21-17.
The deciding set saw the Ireland pair only one point adrift at the interval at 11-10 but found themselves chasing to stay in touch, eventually succumbing 21-19.
Ireland’s next match was against the strong Serbia team, seeded 5/8 and who were to later cause an upset by beating a strong England team 3-1 and Sophia was to pull out another victory in the singles beating Andjela Vitman 21-18 in the third while Matthew was to lose in three after winning the opening set of his singles 21-13 against Sergej Lukic, who was unbeaten in the Group.
In the Individual competition Matthew recorded a fine 21-8 21-7 victory over Latvia’s Patriks Kandis 21-8 21-7 and eased through to Round 2 with a straight forward 21-9 21-14 victory over Torur Paulason (Faroe Islands) only to come up against Ethan Rose, England’s No13 seed, who went on to confound the seedings by reaching the semi-final.
Matthew can indeed be very proud of his performance against Rose, bearing in mind the intensity of the whole European campaign, as he raced into a 9-6 lead in the opening set before his opponent secured the first set 21-14 and was dominant throughout the second to book his place in Round 4.