Junior Boys report from European Youth Championships

The Irish Junior Boys team of Owen Cathcart (Halmstad), Art McLaughlin (Dublin) & Alan Pattison (Dublin) were drawn in a tough group that included Bosnia & Herzegovina, Latvia, Division top seeds Portugal, and Scotland.

First up on Day 1 was Scotland, with the Irish boys putting in a solid performance to take the 3-0 win, however, later that evening against Portugal, the team didn’t fire, going down on a 1-3 scoreline, and facing down the barrel of entering playoffs, from which their highest possible finishing position would be 29th.  Determined to alleviate the pressure, the team came out blazing on the morning of Day 2, with wins over Latvia, 3-0, and Bosnia & Herzegovina, 3-1, moving the boys into second place in the table and the chance to play for promotion to the top Division.

Day 4 saw the start of the second stage of the Championships, with Ireland drawn against Belarus and Greece, and, with probably their finest sustained passage of play, both teams were accounted for on 3-1 scorelines, with Ireland topping their 2nd group and reaching the promotion playoff places. Playing off for positions 17-20, the team was unable to sustain the level from the second group stage, going down against Turkey (0-3) and Romania (2-3). 

A little disappointed with their last days play, the Junior Boys nonetheless finished in 20th place out of 44 teams, a huge improvement on the last two outings for Junior Boys at the Europeans, up 8 places on 2016 (28th) and up 14 places on 2015 (34th), and was especially impressive given their lower original seeding position due to not entering Junior Boys in 2018 or 2017. This puts the team in a strong position to earn promotion in 2020, and is the highest finish by an Irish Junior Boys team in many years. Owen Cathcart and Art McLaughlin were selected to stay on for the individual events, and neither player disappointed with their performances.

In the doubles, McLaughlin was teamed up with Scot Danny Bajwa, however their nascent partnership didn’t click easily enough to avoid a Round 1 defeat against Austria.  Meanwhile, Cathcart had renewed his established doubles pairing with Borgar Haug of Norway, and this accomplished team won their way through three rounds, with wins over a Czech/Slovak combination, Hungary, and Denmark, before going out in the Quarter Finals, on a 1-3 scoreline, against 2nd Seeds France.  Coming within one match of a European medal is a huge achievement for Cathcart, and is just reward for all the work and commitment being put in, both by him and by his new Club in Halmstad.

In the singles, Cathcart had a bye to the Round of 128, where he was drawn against Greek Zisas Doukeris, who had earlier played against Ireland in the team event, a match won 3-0 by Cathcart; and another professional performance against Doukeris, this time a 4-0 victory, set up a Last 64 against 6th Seed Lilian Bardet of France, with Cathcart never really hitting the high standards of which he is capable, going out 0-4 to the French player.

McLaughlin was drawn against Matei Dumitrescu of Romania in the Round of 256, winning through 4-2.  In the Round of 128, McLaughlin faced once again Daniel Kogans from Latvia, and, as with their tie in the team event, this match hung in the balance until the very end, with McLaughlin only taking the lead for the first time early in the 7th set, going on to take the match 4-3.  The reward for reaching the Last 64 was a meeting with the 9th Seed, Belgian Olav Kosolosky, McLaughlin going down 1-4 in a hard fought encounter.