Alpha’s Niall McVeigh has this week joined many of the world’s top Para-badminton stars for the China International in Hangzhou, leaving behind the Thailand Open in Bangkok, as he marches on towards what he hopes will see him realise his ultimate dream of appearing in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Games.
Introduced to the sport by his father Eugene around the age of 7, his love affair with badminton blossomed quickly after this accomplished young swimmer had to finish with that particular sport when it affected his ears and hearing.
A true inspirational character Niall is the first to admit that the game is a totally different one to the one which saw him crowned the 2009 World Dwarf champion and added to his tally of Gold medals in 2011 at the World Para-Badminton Championships in Guatemala, the 2012 European Championships in Germany while in 2013 the colour was again Gold from the World Dwarf Championships in Michigan USA and the BWF Para World Championships.
The prospect of competing in the Paralympics in Tokyo would be ‘a dream come true’ he told the Ulster Star “and it is obviously great for raising the profile of our particular sport” with so much greater interest in the various events in the run up to the Paralympics. Competition for places is also heightened so there can be no slip ups on the way and it took Niall only 14 minutes to overcome Akash Sethu Madhavan (India) in his opening Group E match, racing to 9-0 up before his opponent won his first point and took the first set 21-2.
The second saw McVeigh equally dominant, though his opponent may have been happy to get off the mark early on, it was the Alpha player who won 12 points in a row on his way to sealing the victory 21-2.
Although his second group match saw him come face to face with the No5/6 seed Miles Jacob Krajewski (USA), Niall was in no mood to waste too much energy and raced into an impressive 8-1 lead.
At the interval he led 11-2 before capturing the opening set comfortably 21-9 but the second set was a much tighter affair, for despite enjoying a comfortable 6-3 lead, it was his opponent who was to turn a 9-6 deficit into a 13-10 advantage.
Niall though is always at his most effective when having to fight his way back into any match, responded in typical fashion and that saw him level at 17 all, and seeing the game out 21-18.
In his final group match Niall was to meet Muhammad Amin Azmi (Malaysia) and he was to take the opening set 21-10 never allowing his opponent to mount any sort of concerted attack and was even more dominant the longer the match continued, allowing his opponent only four points in the second.
Yi-Ying Chen of Chinese Taipei was Niall’s final group clash and although the early part of the match was quite tight, once Niall moved into top gear after the interval and holding an 11-7 advantage he was able to take his foot off the pedal to cruise to the opening set 21-11.
The second was a good workout for Niall with Chen able to battle for each point with Chen leading 6-3 and 12-10 on either side of the interval although McVeigh was always poised to launch an assault if required, leading at 15-13 and 20-17 and it took him to 24-22 before he could wrap the match up after 32 minutes.
This took Niall into the quarter-finals and a clash against the No3/4 seed Chun Yim Wong which lasted 33 minutes.
It was always going to be difficult against the world silver medallist – although he had beaten him in straight sets back in the Carlton Irish Para International in Dublin back in June 2015 - and Niall could hardly have played the first half better inside his head, as he raced into a 10-2 lead and led 11-4 at the interval.
Wong was then to come more into the game, getting back on level terms at 14-all for the first time since the pair were locked at 1-all.
Niall was however unable to halt Wong from taking the lead for the first time at 16-15 and although the Ireland No1 was to reduce the deficit from 19-15 it was Wong who captured the first set 21-18.
The second set saw the Hong Kong player win the opening seven points and Niall was only 11-7 in arrears at the interval but the No3/4 seed saw out the match 21-10, the match lasting 33 minutes.
Niall now moves on this week to the China International in Hangzhou, China where there is a very strong entry for the Men’s Singles in the Short Stature 6 class with 17 entries.