Lisburn's Niall McVeigh continues to set sights on Paralympic Games

Brian Kelly explores why Lisburn's popular Niall McVeigh has what it takes to achieve his dreams and compete for gold at the Paralympic Games

Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 12:39 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 12:40 pm
Niall McVeigh at full stretch. Credit: Badminton Europe

Even as early as my first interview with him, it was apparent that Niall McVeigh had clearly set high ambitions regarding where he would love his sporting achievements to take him, including with the Paralympic Games.

It would be for the first time including Niall’s particular discipline (SH6), when suddenly the global pandemic, clearly something totally out of his hands, interrupted his preparations from competing.

In that first interview, Niall interrupted his practice session and I recall he strode over to me, holding out his hand, and proceeded to step up onto a chair at the side of the court and sat down on the table to talk to me with his feet dangling some two feet off the ground.

Niall pictured with Carmen Giuliana Poveda Flores with bronze medals after reaching semi-final of World Para-badminton Championships in 2017 in Korea

Despite all that he has achieved in his albeit relatively brief badminton career – and the heights he has attained in the sport - he cannot be described in any way as aloof; it wouldn’t be in his vocabulary and he is very much ‘one of the lads’ within the group of para-badminton players at the Lisburn club.

He is also very caring and quite simply, great fun to be with - as shown when for quite a few years he regularly teamed up with his great friend in the English Para squad Krysten Coombs, not only on the badminton courts throughout the world but on the stage at Christmas featuring as one of the seven dwarfs!

Born with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism, and the only small one in the family, this short stature, six class world champion is a true ambassador for not only his chosen sport, but also his teammates and country.

He has a pride in his own personal triumphs, but is quick to show his support to his colleagues. That is why the months before one particular Irish para international were so difficult for him after he had lost in Spain and he has fought back from this disappointment and was the stronger for it.

How highly his peers and others see Niall was also very much in evidence when the extension to Lisburn Racquets Club was officially opened, and the deputy secretary of the department, ‘‘was looking forward to speaking to Niall’’ while our own Mayor informed guests that he was delighted to have his photograph taken recently with Niall too!

Revisit some of Niall's most recent games below:

April 2018 Dubai International in Dubai

Men’s Doubles: with Didin Taresoh beat Gagandeep Grewal/Hector Tunque 21-3 21-10 only to fall to Man Kai Chu/Chun Yim Wong 21-8 21-14, but still made the semi but their quest for the title was to come to an end at the hands of the top England pair of Krysten Coombs/Jack Shephard 21-14 21-14 in a clash lasting 30 minutes.

May 2018 Turkish International in Konya Turkey

Singles: beat Alexander Mekhdiev 21-13 21-13; beat Yohei Hatakeyama 21-14 21-19; beat Hector Jesus Salva Tunque 21-9 21-9; beat Fabien Morat 21-13 21-9.

June 2018 Irish Para-Badminton International Dublin

The semi-final of the mixed doubles found Niall and Carmen Giuliana Poveda Flores narrowly miss out on the final losing to Robert Laing/ Rebecca Bedford 21-11 16-21 23-21. In the Group A stage of the competition they knocked out Isaak Dalglish/Olivia Szmigiel 21-11 17-21 21-19 in what was an epic 36 minute encounter. Earlier they had beaten Wyatt Lightfoot/Deidre Nagle in Round 21-7 21-8;

Men’s Singles (SH6) category: Niall beat hector Jesus Salva Tunque 21-5 21-13 but suffered a narrow defeat to old adversary Andrew Martin (England) 19-21 21-18 18-21 in 19 minutes; beat Miles Krajewski 21-10 21-13; beat Vitor Goncalves Tavares 21-18 21-6 and in the Qtr final lost out to Krysten Coombs in 25 min 21-11 21-8.

July 2018 Thailand Para-Badminton International in Bangkok

Men’s Doubles: In the opening round of the Group stage and partnering his club-mate Andrew Moorcroft, they were to have the opening set of their clash against Hctor Jesus Salva Tunque/Didin Taresoh snatched from their grasp 23-21 but came back to draw level, taking the second 21-16 but lost the third 22-20 in 51 minutes.

In Round 2 they were beaten by Mark Joseph Dharmai/Raja Magotra 21-17 21-13.

Men’s Singles Group E: Niall beat Simone Emilie Meyer Larsen 21-3 21-6 and recorded a straightforward 21-11 21-10 victory over Mark Joseph Dharmai 21-11 21-10 followed by victories over Asep Sutisna 21-11 21-17 and Sun Jong Lie in the round of 16 21-16 21-16 only to lose to Chun Yim Wong in a 24 minute quarter final 21-14 21-3.