An 8 strong Irish Squad travelled to the East Midlands over the weekend for the first weekend of the 2016/2017 Junior British League.
The Irish Girls (Katie McGlone, Rebecca Finn and Mia O’Rahilly Egan, NPC; Mark O’Flynn) were placed in the Premier Division while the young Irish Boys side (Art McLaughin, Thomas Joyce, Dillon Byrne, NPC; Sam Logue) were competing in Division 2B.
The Irish Girls had a tournament to remember as they remained unbeaten throughout the entire weekend in what is an extremely competitive top flight division – a fantastic achievement! On the opening days play, the girls were made to dig deep in what is always a gruelling schedule for everyone involved.
After opening their account with a relatively comfortable 6-0 win over Warrington, the girls then faced a stern challenge from Burton & Uxbridge 1. Here, Irish number 1 Katie McGlone came to the fore, winning both of her singles in a real stand-out display which included a 3-1 success over highly rated English International, Charlotte Bardsley. However, having led 3-1 in the overall match after a win for Mia over fellow Irish player and Burton number 3 Zofia Wawrzyniak, the girls were unable to close out the win, losing both of the final two matches deuce in the 5th set! The first of these was inflicted by the in-form Zofia over Rebecca while the last match saw Mia lose out to French player and Burton number 2, Gidney, 22-20 in the decider!
In the final match of the day the girls showed immense character as they recovered from a 0-2 deficit against a confident Draycott team to secure a 4-2 win, this time Mia winning her two singles while Katie and Rebecca won one apiece.
On day 2, yet another hard fought victory was secured, as this time they overcame Harefield Academy 4-2, with Rebecca starring on this occasion as she won her 2 singles while Katie and Mia added the other points. This sent the girls into the final match of the weekend against ‘Team of the Weekend’ winners Ellenborough, who had a 100% record heading into the match. Ellenborough, who boast a stellar line-up including English International duo Denise Payet and Kate Cheer as well as Hungarian Junior National Team Player, Kitty Korda, represented a massive challenge for the Irish Girls.
However, right from the off the Girls once again showed their battling qualities, as they went toe to toe in what was an exhillarating encounter. Rebecca played a great match to lose narrowly to the impressive Payet in the opening singles, but Katie duly replied for the Irish with a gutsy 5 set, 11-9 win over Cheer. Mia then played fearlessly to stun Korda by winning in straight sets to give the Girls a 2-1 advantage. Despite Payet levelling matters by beating Katie in 4 tight sets, Rebecca was on hand to put the Irish back in front, as a shell-shocked Korda couldn’t quite get to grips with the Belfast girls fast paced approach. In the final match, Mia defied the odds once more as she played her best match of the weekend to upset Cheer in a titanic battle, 14-12 in the deciding 5th set, giving her team a 4-2 win!
Congratulations to the girls on an outstanding weekend, where they really showed how a team event can be played as they dove-tailed exceptionally well throughout – what a performance!
The young boys team fough hard throughout their 5 matches in what was an invaluable experience for them, competing 5 years above their own age group! They recorded 2 wins over the course of the weekend, and fought valiantly despite the many tough challenges they were faced with.
The highlight for the boys was the exceptional performances by 13 year old Art McLaughlin, who showed fantastic improvements to his game as he went home with a tally of 8/10 matches won over the 2 days.
A special mention must also go to the UCD 1 Team, who topped the division 2A standings after the weekend, winning all of their matches in the process while also going home with the ‘Team of the weekend’ award for boys!
We look forward to the 2nd weekend in January where all will be decided for the 2016/2017 Junior British League season!