The 2016/2017 Junior Domestic Season got off to a flyer over the weekend as the CelticTT Irish Junior Classification lived up to all expectation at the fantastic DCU Sports Complex.
With this being the first major ranking event of the season, the big names were out in force across all ages, vying for the top ranking positions on offer.
On Saturday, the action included the U13 and U18 events, making it a busy day all round for players and volunteers alike. The U18 Boys event was as ferocious as expected when the line-up was announced, with thrills and spills throughout the day contributing to an enthralling event. There were big performances early in the day, as both Joey Nelson and David Taylor made runs to the quarter finals before they were eventually beaten.
On the top half of the draw, top seed Owen Cathcart sailed through to the final, halting the run of the impressive Alan Pattison. In the other half, Charlie Fitzgerald got the better of second seed Dylan Grace over four sets in a hard fought encounter, paving the way for a Cathcart/Fitzgerald final.
The Ormeau player was unstoppable when it came to the crunch match, as despite the UCD mans best efforts, he couldn’t quite get to grips with Owen as he came through in straight sets.
The Under 18 Girls also produced its fair share of big results. Zofia Wawrzyniak produced possibly the most noticable one of all, as she defeated second seed Rebecca Finn on her way to a final appearance.
Like Owen in the boys however, Katie McGlone was unstoppable here, also sailing through the event with relative ease. In the Semi Final, she overcame her biggest challenge in top seed Mia O’Rahilly Egan. The two finalists of the senior classification have become accostomed to titanic battles but this time it was to be Katies day right from the off, as she stamped her authority on the match on her way to a 3-0 win.
In the final, it was UCD against Leeside as Katie faced Zofia for the Gold medal. Katie proved too strong here, coming through in straight sets to seal her spot at the top of the rankings.
In the U13 Boys, Ormeau TTC impressed throughout, as they boasted an uncredible 4 players at the quarter final stage. In the end, it was James Skelton who was left standing when the final match arrived, following an excellent semi final win over Nick MacLeod. In the Final, top seed Dillon Byrne lay in wait. Dillon lived up to his seeding as he showed his quality to win in 4 tight sets, but it certainly was no easy match against the ever improving Ormeau boy.
In the U13 Girls, 10 year old Sophie Earley was in imperious form as she claimed the gold medal despite playing 3 years above her age. She defeated old rivals Pravesha Ragi and Silke Heinen to take top spot in what was a truly classy display from the young girl. Again, Ormeaus youngsters were showing their quality.
On Sunday, the Under 15 Boys and Girls events were to be decided. Here, the Griffeen Valley club in Lucan were in the thick of the action when the tournament reached the business end.
In the boys, Art McLaughlin defeated club mate and the winner of the under 13 event from Saturday, Dillon Byrne in a tightly contested, four set semi final. In the final, Mayos Thomas Joyce was lying in wait, having looked impressive on route to this stage, beating Ciaran O’Donoghue and Kristijonas Dapkus along the way. In the final, Thomas continued where he left off, as his form was that bit too strong for Art, who despite battling hard, couldn’t prevent the Connacht man from coming through in straight sets.
On the girls, Mia O’Rahilly Egan was back to settle a score following her disappointment in the under 18 event the previous day. She certainly used it to her advantage, as she stormed to the final, only dropping a set to the impressive Nicole Scott in the penultimate round.
Facing Mia in the final was the under 13 winner, Sophie Earley, who was back and hungry for more following Saturdays success. In the semi she overcame her friend and Ulster team-mate Lucy Craic in a tough 3-1 battle to seal her place in the final. The final was an excellent match and certainly one of the matches of the weekend. Sophie threw everything at her more experienced opponent, with nothing to separate them after 2 sets. From here, Mia stepped up the level slightly, and eventually pulled away to claim a 3-1 win.
Finally, congratulations to all participants, and in particular our medalists, in what was a great weekend in DCU.
We would also like to thank all of our volunteers, especially referee Con O’Ceadaigh and his assistants, Tony Martin and Stuart McConkey, for their hard work in making the event such a success.
We look forward to seeing everyone up in Lisburn for the Ulster Open!