Paige Woods can certainly hold her head up high on her return home from the Munster U17 Open in the University of Limerick at the weekend having earned a GOLD from partnering her sister Chloe to lift the coveted U17 Girl’s Doubles crown and a bronze after reaching the semi-final of the Girl’s Singles.
Stuart McCollam was to continue his rich vein of form by helping himself to a BRONZE having reached the semi-final of the Boy’s Singles in addition to two SILVER medals by partnering Julia O’Reilly to the runners-up spot in the Mixed Doubles and the second by reaching the final of the Boy’s Doubles with Robbie Frost.
There was a further silver medal for Laura Bell for partnering Laura Comer to runner-up in the Girl’s Doubles where they lost out to the Woods sisters.
Hunterhouse pupils Chloe and Paige were naturally ‘over the moon’ as were mum Alison and dad Trevor, not to mention their twin sisters Rachael and Rebecca, who have just started their university studies and are well known around the local badminton scene.
The Woods sisters Paige and Chloe had come in to the competition unseeded, though Paige had won both the Mixed and Girl’s Doubles crown’s in the Ulster U15 Open with Dylan Noble and Siofra Flynn respectively and she was a semi-finalist in the Singles but to capture a Gold in U17 Doubles will surely grab selectors attention.
With Laura Bell and Laura Comer seeded No1, they had to stave off a considerable challenge from Neasa and Siofra Flynn in the opening set of their quarter-final clash with the top seeds through 21-19 21-16 and overcoming their semi-final opponents Anna Cooney and Eve Hassett 21-7 21-17 it was the Woods sisters who had caused an upset by knocking out the No2 seeds Emma Fahy and Sinead O’Sullivan in something of a marathon semi-final.
Having already been engaged in a three-setter against Chloe Koay and Julie O’Reilly before coming through 21-15 17-21 22-20 in addition to their opening round - a three-setter too - against Saumya Kothiyal and Aishlinn Murtagh - the final saw both partnerships keeping spectators on the edge of their seats as first Bell/Comer snatched the opening set 21-18 and then the Woods sisters drew level, taking the second set by the same score to set up what looked like a grandstand finish.
However that did not materialise as it was the Woods sisters who were to take control in the decider, winning 21-10.
Paige had to work extremely hard right throughout the Girl’s Singles being taken to 23-21 in the second set of her opening match against Stephanie Yen Lin Yip while Emma Fahy may have lost the opening set 21-17 but came back to take the second 21-12 only for Woods to romp home 21-12 and book a place in the semi-final.
Eva Hassett had already knocked out the No3/4 seed Saumya Kothiyal 21-19 in the deciding set of their Round 2 clash but Paige was to race to the opening set 21-13, only to suffer a setback when a straight set victory was snatched from her grasp 21-18.
However she put the setback to the back of her mind and booked her place in the semi-final 21-14 with a clash against the No2 seed Neasa Flynn her prize, the fact that in eight previous meetings between the two players, Paige had yet to record a single victory since the Ulster U11 clash back in 2014 did not in any way alter the young Hunterhouse pupils approach in any way and it was a credit that she was never overawed by the occasion and will undoubtedly be pleased that she tested her opponent before losing 21-10 21-16
There was also an excellent performance from Alpha’s Laura Bell, who ended the hopes of Michelle Shochan in a marathon winning 20-22 21-15 26-24 only to lose in the next round to the No2 seed Neasa Flynn 21-13 21-15.
Stuart McCollam was seeded No3/4 in the U17 Munster Boy’s Singles and eased his way into the semi-finals without dropping a singles game, ending the hopes of Liam Furey (Oranmore) 21-8 21-9, Fionn Dowling (Dunboyne) 21-18 21-13 and Robbie Frost (Terenure College) 21-10 21-16.
In the semi-final he faced Ben Lawlor, the No2 seed who he has faced on eight previous occasions since beating him in the U12 Juvenile Open back in November 2015, but Lawlor is now ranked No4 in Singles and No3 in Under 17 Boy’s Doubles.
Nevertheless Stuart can certainly be reasonably satisfied with his performance in Limerick and he matched Lawlor point for point in the opening set, losing it narrowly 21-17 and although his opponent saw out the match 21-11 to book his place in the final against top seed Scott Guildea, the Wallace pupil can take note of the fact that Lawlor proved more than a handful for top seed Guildea taking him to three 21-17 16-21 21-17.
McCollam also found himself going one step further in the Boy’s Doubles, partnering Terenure College’s Robbie Frost, and after receiving a bye in the opening round they were forced to step up a gear against Jack Bridgeman and Eoghan Cooney having won the opening set comfortably 21-10 but had the second set snatched from their grasp 21-19.
Although coming through into the semi-final with a comfortable deciding set score of 21-15, the pair were again living dangerously as they encountered the No3/4 seeds James Fleming and Richard Kong.
McCollam and Frost captured the opening set 21-16 only to lose an energy-sapping second set 21-23 before taking control of the match once again to book their place against the top seeds Scott Guildea and Ben Lawlor.
In the final the top seeds lifted the title 21-11 21-7
There were a total of SIX Alpha players in the Mixed Doubles competition with Stuart McCollam partnering Julia O’Reilly and seeded No2, hoping to improve on their semi-final appearance in both the Leinster U17
Mixed Doubles when they lost to Scott Guildea and Laura Comer 21-16 21-18 and in their Ulster U17 Mixed Doubles clash when they lost to the same pair 21-18 21-17.
After being taken all the way in their opening match by Chloe Koay and Richard Kong which they won 21-19 18-21 22-20, they seemed well on their way to the semi-final when they took the opening set of their match against Stephanie Yen Lin Yip and Adam Daynes 21-12 but had to survive a much more difficult second set before coming through 23-21 to face the unseeded Neasa Flynn and Ben Lawlor in the semi.
The top seeds Comer and Guildea had a three-setter against Laura Bell and Rory Comer before coming through 21-16 18-21 21-11 while Chloe Woods and James Fleming knocked out Leanne D’Silva and Hari Narayan 21-6 21-9 and followed this up with a two-set victory over Orlaith Evans and Polishetty before their hopes of a semi- final place were dashed by the Comer/Guildea partnership.
A final between O’Reilly/McCollam and Comer/Guildea saw the top seeds in control and returning to the winner’s podium after having to be content with a runner-up position when they lost 21-13 21-17 to the Leinster U17 Open champions Matthew Cheung and Sophia Noble.
AMBER REACHES TWO SEMI-FINALS
The U13 Girl’s Singles in the Munster U13 Open played at the University of Limerick at the weekend proved to be an exciting competition and Amber Buchanan certainly showed that she was in a rich vein of form accounting for Aoife Browne in the opening round for the loss of only two points in each set, and whilst her clash against Levina Dsilva was a much closer affair, it was the young Alpha player, who was to book her place in the quarter-finals 21-15 21-14.
She was then to face her doubles partner Hayley Gallagher from Waterford and won convincingly 21-11 21-12 with a place in the final awaiting the winner of her contest against Zarah Pender, the No2 seed.
With the pair having played each other on only one previous occasion, and that being in the Ulster U13 Open back in September when Pender won 21-11 21-16, the Alpha player had it all to play for despite the eight places between them in the rankings and despite a somewhat disappointing opening set which Pender won 21-12.
However the second was to see something of a Buchanan revival and the No2 seed was made to fight for every point and although it was Pender who was to progress through to the final to play the top seed Nicole Joy, this performance against Pender will undoubtedly give the Alpha player added confidence whenever the pair meet next time.
In the Girl’s Doubles Amber and Hayley Gallagher, the No2 seeds, were to progress into the semi-final, though they had to dig deep into their energy reserves as in their clash against Amira Pender and Hannah Shochan their opponents were to pull back from one set in arrears to level, taking the second 21-17 before the
Buchanan/Gallagher partnership booked their place in the semis 21-18.
Their opponents Levina Dsilva and Nessa Mooney wasted no time in taking the opening set but Amber and Hayley drew level taking the second 21-11 and were in a good position going in to the deciding set but found their opponents unwilling to give up as their unseeded opponents snatched victory - and a semi-final place - from their grasp 21-19 but were unable to match the top seeded Nicole Joy and Zarah Pender, who ran out easy victors 21-6 21-9.
In the Mixed Doubles Amber and her partner Cillian Dowling had lost out to the No3/4 seeds Power and Pender in the Leinster U13 Open for a place in the semis 21-18 21-13 and had also missed out on a last four placing in the Ulster U13, losing out in three sets.
But this time they were so determined to make their presence felt that they were to show considerable spirit in fighting off the challenge from Nessa Mooney and Adhithyan Gopinath 18-21 21-18 21-18 to reach the quarter-final, only to go down to the seeded Zarah Pender and Lorcan Mcgrane 21-10 21-9.
Hayley Gallagher and Jeffrey Rong, the No2 seeds, who had been far from impressive in their opening matches being taken to 21-16 21-19 by the unseeded Selena O’Rourke and Gavin O’Brien got back on track beating Kate Nolan and Ben Mcelligott comprehensively 21-13 21-10 and then saw off Zarah Pender and Lorcan Mcgrane to book their place in the final against the top seeds Nicole Joy and Andrew Hassett, who had reached the final without dropping a single set and were in imperious form as they took the title 21-15 21-12.
NO SINGLES CROWN FOR RONG THIS TIME
Alpha’s Jeffrey Rong was hoping to make it ‘three in a row’ as he progressed through to the final of the U13 Boy’s Singles in what was a repeat of both the Leinster and Ulster U13 Open Boy’s Singles titles having beaten the top seeded Andrew Hassett first in straight sets and the second 21-11 in the deciding set in their previous encounters this season.
Rong was also seeking to further add to his record of six out of seven wins over the Mount Pleasant player since meeting in the Ulster U11 Open back in October 2017.
It all started so well for Rong in Limerick having ended the hopes of Ethan Breenan (Oranmore) 21-10 21-6 for a place in the quarter-final while Whitehall Road’s Robert Cowman could simply not halt the charge of the young Alpha player as he booked his place in the semi-final with a 21-9 21-13 win.
Though seeded to face Rong in the semi-final, Adhithyan Gopinath, was never going to make his passage into the final an easy one and after losing the opening set comfortably, the Lucan juvenile stepped up the pace of his challenge and it was a rather relieved Alpha player, who was to seal his place in the final 21-19.
Meanwhile top seed Andrew Hassett had been similarly convincing in the top half of the draw, although in the opening set of his quarter-final, his opponent Aiden Biju Joy was to cause a few headaches before sealing the set 21-18 and the second 21-9.
In the eagerly anticipated final it was Hassett who was to get across the line for his first singles title win of the season and his first win over the Alpha player since November 2018.
BOYS DOUBLES TITLE ON THE LINE
There were no upsets in the Boy’s Doubles with Hassett and Rong easing their way through to the final without dropping a single set while in the bottom half of the draw the No2 seeds Cillian Dowling and Lorcan Mcgrane were never pressed to book their place in their final either and were seeking to record their first victory over the top seeds, having lost both their previous clashes in 2018.
But the form of the top seeds continued and they romped home 21-12 21-15.
ONE POINT SEPARATES ALPHA TEAMS IN NORTH DOWN JUVENILE LEAGUE
Four Alpha teams made their debut last weekend in the North Down Juvenile League with all matches staged at Strathearn School.
With two Alpha teams in each of the age categories it was the Alpha Colts and Alpha Cubs in the Under 13 Division, who were to face each other with the outcome having to be decided not by matches - as the teams were level 2 matches all - NOT by even games - both teams being locked on 5 games all - but coming down to ONE POINT - 179 against 178!
Carrig Muldoon and Jamie Blakeman for the Alpha Cubs won the opening set of their clash against the Alpha Colts top pair Ross Glover and Conor Blakeman 21-16 but were to have victory snatched from their grasp by their opponents 21-19 in the second before regaining their composure and consistency to secure a crucial 21-15 victory in the decider.
Alpha Colts drew level when Kaden Tang and Isaac Cardy took the opening set 21-11 against Robbie McCollam and Louise Kearon but then saw their opponents draw level when they breezed through to take the second comfortably 21-13.
But Tang/Cardy were to bring the Alpha Colts level as they raced to the third set 21-14. Carrig Muldoon teamed up with Robbie McCollam for the Alpha Cubs and recorded an excellent 21-16 21-13 victory over Ross Glover and Kaden Tang only for Conor Blakeman and Isaac Cardy to beat Jamie Blakeman and Louise Kearon from the Alpha Colts 21-14 21-16 and send the organisers away to total up the points with the Cubs victorious 179 points and the Colts on 178.
In the U15 competition the Alpha Joey’s and the Alpha Cygnets played each other on the opening day too with Roisin McKenna teaming up with Robbie McCollam and recording a 21-14 21-19 victory over the Cygnets pair Ross Glover and Jamie Blakeman but this was to be the Joey’s only win of the day.
Joey’s Carrig Muldoon and Roisin McKenna came ever so close to taking their clash against Chris Chee and Ross Glover to a deciding set but ran out losing 21-19 21-18 while Kaden Tang and Robbie McCollam pressed Zoe Kearon and Jamie Blakeman all the way only to lose 21-15 21-16.
The Cygnet’s Chris Chee and Zoe Kearon were 21-9 21-10 victors over the Joey’s Corrig Muldoon and Kaden Tang.