This weekend sees Rachael and Rebecca Woods bid for titles in the prestigious FZ Forza U19 Irish Open which get underway at the National Indoor Arena in Dublin with a top class international field.
But it will also mark the final home competition in which the Alpha pair will compete before they start their university courses, Rachael at Nottingham University and Rebecca at Loughborough University, two universities with outstanding badminton pedigrees.
In the U19 Irish Open Rachael, Badminton Ireland Young Player of the Year, is the only seeded local player, partnering Switzerland’s Yann Orteu in the Mixed Doubles.
They should get their challenge for the coveted title off to a winning start, though they will have to wait for the outcome of the clash between Kevin Downey/Megan McLoughlin and the Scottish pair Callum Smith and Erin Waddell, while Rebecca will be teaming up with Scotland’s Jamie Gunn and they have an opening round match against England pair Finn Saunders and Sophie Watson to consider.
A victory here would give them what would be a difficult match against the No2 seeds William Jones and Asmita Chaudhan while Ben Dempster and Pamela Pontanosa will be hoping to bring Liam Purton and Romilly Rose Calvert’s competition to an abrupt end.
The Woods twins will be hoping to have a good run in the Women’s Doubles with their opening opponents Katharina Fink (Italy) and Julia O’Reilly (Ireland).
Next up for the Ulster and Ireland pair will be the winner of the Jodie Harris/Erin Waddell (Scotland) versus Khushi Naik/Sophie Watson (England) clash.
In the Singles Rachael has a tough opening match against Rachel Cameron of Scotland, though the Alpha player snatched a 21-17 21-18 victory in last year’s competition and in the 2017 Miss Woods came out on top 18-21 21-19 21-13 so she will have to be on top of her game.
Waiting in the wings will be Ireland’s Sabrina Steinberg who received a bye into the 2 nd Round while Rebecca will be eagerly awaiting the opportunity to face the highly rated No2 seed Milena Schnider (Switzerland) who is ranked just outside the top twenty in the BWF Junior Rankings in singles.
She was Women’s Singles runner-up in the Valamar Junior Open earlier this year in addition to lifting the Doubles title.
The pair have met on opposite sides of the net as recently as January 2018 in a Mixed Doubles clash in the Portuguese International Junior Championships which saw Schnider and Minh Quang Pham squeeze through 21-18 22-20 beating Rebecca and Brian O’Mahony. For the record Schnider also squeezed through a clash against Rachael Woods 21-10 in the third set in January 2018 and was taken to 21-17 18-21 24-22 before beating Rachael in the 2017 European U17 Championships. Niall McVeigh will undoubtedly reflect on this year’s BWF Para-Badminton World Championships in Basle as another valuable step towards competing in what has always been an ambition of his from an early age...competing in the Tokyo Games next year.
Interest in this particular side of the sport has changed substantially since he made those first tentative steps in para badminton supported by his father Eugene and he is the first to admit that back then there may have been little more than half-a-dozen in the competitions compared to now when there were 32 in the singles draw in the Short Stature 6 class at the BWF Para-Badminton World Championships hosted in Basle last week.
With two World and European Championships to his credit, the competition saw Niall easily negotiate his passage through the opening two matches against Wyatt Lightfoot (Canada) 21-13 21-11 and Dawson McClure (USA) 21-6 21-12 but his clash against the No2 seed Krysten Coombs (England) was always going to be the measure of where he stands in his preparations for Tokyo.
This pair, who are also great friends off the court, have faced each other so often that they know each other’s game like the back of their hands but of late it has been Coombs who has come out on top more often and the opening game saw Coombs dominating the early exchanges but McVeigh keeping in touch and poised to make the challenge.
At the halfway stage in the opening set Niall found himself 11-7 behind and whilst he was able to reduce the gap to two at 13-11 it was Coombs who was to launch attack after attack to go one set up 21-13.
The second saw Coombs 6-0 up before McVeigh got on the scoreboard and at the interval Krysten had increased the deficit to11-4 a margin which Niall was unable to recover from particularly as he was to be hit just above the eye.
Nevertheless the two group victories were to secure Niall a place in the 1 st round proper where he faced Didin Taresoh, the talented No5/8 seed from Malaysia.
At the interval Niall was nicely placed in the opening set at just two points adrift of his opponent but who then raced too the opening set 21-14 while the second saw the Alpha player lead for the first time albeit at the start of the set but Taresoh soon regained control to win 21-14 and book his place in the quarter-final, losing to the eventual champion Jack Shephard 19-21 21-14 21-8. Andrew Moorcroft, meanwhile, recorded a fine 21-6 21-17 victory in his opening group match against Luke Missen and came so very close to upsetting Yohei Hatakeyama (Japan) losing 22-20 21-15 having enjoyed a 11-10 lead at the interval in the second set.
Having therefore been most unfortunate to miss out on his bid to get out of Group G, having lost to the No5/8 seed Chun Yim Wong 21-9 21-8, Andrew teamed up with Scotland’s Robert Laing, losing only 22-20 13-21 16-21 to Andrew Martin and Fabien Morat and they certainly gave the No2 seeds Vitor Goncalves Tavares and Miles Krajewski quite a fright despite dropping the opening set 21-9. For in the second there was little between the two pairs until 16-14 in arrears.
At that point the seeded pair gathered momentum and put a 3 point advantage between the two pairs and saw the match out.