Owen Cathcart and Katie McGlone led a resurrgent Irish charge as Singles Sunday proved a day to remember at the 2015 Senior Schools International in Perth, Scotland, over the weekend.
‘Close – but no cigar’ was the theme of the day following the Team Event, as despite many strong performances across all categories, the 6 Irish Teams on show were left rueing their missed opportunities as the dust settled on Saturday evening. The U16 Girls (Katie McGlone & Kate Whelan) came closest to Gold as they were pipped at the post by a 3-2 scoreline against a stong England A side while it was a similar story for the U14 Boys (Owen Cathcart & Conor Nugent) but they too had to settle for Silver as they couldn’t quite get to grips with a sharp England A team in the Final. Our young U14 girls team of Mia Egan and Natasya Barry battled hard to earn a bronze – a fine effort from two of our brightest young stars, with years to spare at this level. While finally, Bronze was also the colour for the U18 Boys (Alan Walsh & Ryan McConkey) and the U18 Girls (Hannah Lynch Dawson & Chloe O’Halloran), with English opposition again proving a bit too strong.
With little time to dwell on what had gone before, National Coach John Murphy together with fellow NPC’s Conn Higgins, Gavin Maguire and Sarah Timlin were charged with the task of rallying the troops to go again into Sundays Singles events. The response was immediate as the squad dusted themselves off and hit the ground running on Sunday morning.
Katie McGlone, Kate Whelan and Owen Cathcart got the ball rolling with convincing group victories to kick off the day, but it didn’t stop there, as 10 Irish players went on to reach the quarter finals of their respective age groups in what proved to be a real signal of intent by the group.
Alan Walsh starred in the U18 Boys singles, taking out top seed Gabriel Achampong of England in the Quarter Final in 5 gripping sets before his run was eventually halted by Mitchell Jones of England in the Semis. Kate Whelan also reached the Semi Final of the U14 Girls, making it there with relative ease before going down in a nail biting 5 setter to English girl Gauri Duhan 15-13 in the decider.
This meant that Katie McGlone and Owen Cathcart were the only Irish left standing late in the day.
Seeded 2, Katie’s semi final draw presented a big challenge, as she faced old rival Kate Cheer, who she lost out to in the Team Final the previous day. There would be no repeat of that result however, as the Irish number 1 ranked junior girl nicked a close first set before going on to dominate her English opponent in 3 quick fire games. In the Final she faced Scottish surprise package Rebecca Plaistow, who had accounted for top seed Letitia McMullen of England in the Semi Final. Despite a nervy opening, Katie showed her class from 1 set a piece to pull away from her Scottish opponent and claim a convincing 3-1 victory and the 2015 Senior Schools U16 Title.
This made way for the U14 Boys Final where Owen Cathcart was lying in wait following a flawless charge towards the crown following victory over William Ibbitson in the quarter final followed by a thumping straight sets win over top seed James Smith of England in the Semis. In the final he was up against another Englishman, Ethan Walsh, and like Katie in the U16 Girls, he was eager to avenge his defeat at the hands of the same player from Saturdays Team Final. Again, a tight first set that could have swung either way proved decisive here and fortunately, it went the Belfast boys way 15-13 before he again stepped it up another couple of notches to claim yet another straight sets victory and with it, the 2015 Senior Schools U14 Title.
Congratulations to all players and coaches on what was a successful weekend for this group of young Irish players.