Preparations for this weekend’s Munster Under 17 Open at the University of Limerick

Stuart McCollam stretches for backhand return
Stuart McCollam stretches for backhand return

Stuart McCollam’s confidence this weekend must surely be at its highest level for quite some time as he prepares for the Munster Under 17 Open at the University of Limerick, after a series of fine performance in the Leinster U17 Yonex Open.

For the Wallace High School pupil had teamed up with Dylan Noble and reached the semi-final of the Boy’s Doubles losing out only 23-21 21-11 to the No2 seeds Scott Guildea and Ben Lawlor and also narrowly lost a nail-biting quarter-final in the Boy’s Singles to the No3/4 seed Ben Lawlor 21-15 21-18.

In the Mixed Doubles Stuart and Julia O’Reilly seeded No3/4 opened their challenge with a tough three-setter against Ben Lawlor and Neasa Flynn having come back from one set down to win 21-18 21-11 and then eased through in straight sets against Alan Doyle and Eva Hassett21-14 before facing Scott Guildea and Laura Comer,

the No2 seeds and losing 21-16 21-18 in a 50 minute marathon.

In Limerick there is a very healthy draw for the Boy’s Singles with thirty players setting off to claim the coveted title with Stuart one of two Alpha players in the draw with Rajaram Polishetty due to face Ayrton Burke (Kingdom Castleisland) in his first match with the winner meeting the winner of the Michael Twomey and

Senan O’Rourke.

Stuart is seeded No3/4 and gets his challenge underway against Oranmore’s Liam Furey with his next opponent being the winner of the Tom Nuzum and Fionn Dowling clash and would be due to meet No2 seed Ben Lawlor in the semi-final.

Although Lawlor has won their last two clashes, McCollam still holds a 5-3 record over Lawlor and will be keen to add to this tally.

In the Boy’s Doubles Stuart will be teaming up once again with Robbie Frost of Terenure College and, seeded No2, are expected to meet James Fleming and Richard Kong in the semi-final, with Scott Guildea and Ben Lawlor to come through against their expected semi-final opponents Adam Daynes and Tiarnan O’Rourke.

In the Mixed Doubles it is the McCollam/O’Reilly partnership who should be facing the top seeds Laura Comer/Scott Guildea in a repeat of their Leinster clash though Round 2 has brought together the top seeds and Alpha’s Laura Bell and Ballyclare’s Rory Comer.

In another of the interesting Round 2 matches, the Lisburn club may well have two players on opposite sides of the net, Rajaram Polishetty partnering Orlaith Evans while Chloe Woods and her partner James Fleming if they can see off Leanne D’Silva and Hari Narayan in Round 1.

Alpha’s Paige Woods and Eoghan Cooney (Baltinglass) are also in the mix and face Neasa Flynn and Ben Lawlor in the opening round while Jasmine Buchanan teams up with Conor Power.

The Girl’s Singles has a massive draw of 29 entries led by Ballyclare’s Laura Comer but Laura Bell will undoubtedly have an opportunity to make an early impression as the Alpha player meets Whitehall Road’s Michelle Shochan in the opening round and although she has not beaten the No2 seed Neasa Flynn in five outings, the matches are never anything but close, the last being 21-18 22-20 in the 2018/19 inter-pros.

A win could certainly open up the bottom half of the draw for the young Alpha player and the other seed in the bottom half is Saumya Kothiyal, a player that Laura beat 21-16 22-20 in this year’s Ulster U17 Open back in September.

Others to watch are Paige Woods, who has an opening round against Stephanie Yen Lin Yip and must be still settling down to life after winning the Girl’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles in the Ulster U15 Open, not to mention that semi-final place in the Singles while Jasmine Buchanan will be getting valuable experience at this level.

Laura Bell (Alpha) and Laura Comer (Ballyclare) are obviously the partnership to beat in the Girl’s Doubles with Emma Fahy and Sinead O’Sullivan the No2 seeds but I wouldn’t rule out Paige and Chloe Woods having a say somewhere along the line as they find themselves in the bottom half of the draw.