Ulster duo Owen Cathcart and Rebecca Finn emerged victorious after a day of hard fought battles at the weekends David Lloyd Open Irish Senior Ranking Event in Dundonald.
For 14 year-old Cathcart, it was his maiden victory at an Irish Senior tournament following what has been a meteoric rise to the top of the domestic and International scene for the Belfast boy.
Finn meanwhile, has returned to the winners circle after previous notable successes at the 2015 Irish Senior Classification as well as the 2015 Sainburys UK School Games.
Despite some absentees in the men’s draw, including the likes of Gavin Maguire, Ashley Robinson and Paul McCreery due to club commitments in Europe, there was no shortage of International calibre in the field when proceedings got underway on Saturday morning. Former Junior number 1 players and Senior International’s Zak Wilson and Ryan Farrell topped the seedings, while the experienced trio of Peter Graham, Daryl Strong and the returning Keith Knox were by no means there to make up the numbers.
On the top half of the draw, Graham overcame Knox in an epic 5 setter to set up a semi final clash with the top seed Wilson, who came through a stern test against Dylan Grace in his quarter by a 3-1 scoreline. Zak had the upperhand in the battle of the Glenburn TTC players, as he held his nerve to come through in 5 tight sets and seal his place in the final.
On the bottom half, Owen was in fine form throughout, as he claimed convincing straight set wins over experienced pair Wallace Mahaffy and Daryl Strong on route to the semi final. There he faced second seed Ryan Farrell, who was also in good form following a dominant display against Artur Lewanczuk in the quarters. The semi was a match of the highest quality, with both players showing fantastic fight and determination in what was a real battle. Ryan had big chances when the match went to a deciding 5th set as he came out fast, taking a 5-0 lead. From there Owen regrouped, and his trademark aggressive style brought him back into the match. Ryan then pushed again to lead 10-9 and 11-10 but Owen held strong before eventually taking the match 13-11 in the 5th set.
In the Final, Ulsters top two young guns faced off for the David Lloyd Open title. Zak was fast out of the blocks, always holding a lead. However at 2-1 in sets, the tide turned in Owens favour following more outstanding exchanges that thrilled the local crowd. Heading into another 5th set decider, it was all to play for for both players but it was to be the Ormeau TTC players day, as he stretched clear to take the match after an 11-8 set.
In the Ladies event, it was all to play for right from the off in what was an extremely competitive category. In the group stage, there was a big result early on as top seed Mia O’Rahilly Egan was upset by the in form Marta Zareba over 5 sets. Susan Hanlon also got in on the act, as she stepped up to defeat Marta in another decider. Mia’s earlier win over Susan was enough to see her through in 1st place as a result of a count-back, with Marta claiming 2nd spot.
In the other group, there was more upsets brewing, as second seed Hannah Lynch Dawson was knocked out following defeats to Sabina Devereaux and Rebecca Finn. Sabina went on to beat Rebecca to top spot to earn her a crunch semi final showdown with Marta Zareba, while Rebecca was pitted against Mia O’Rahilly Egan.
Rebecca and Mia have become well accustomed to doing battle on the domestic circuit in recent times and this was to be another dogged tussle. At 1-1, it was all to play for, but the girl from Carryduff had the answers on the day as she broke away to take a 3-1 win, using her attacking short pimple forehand to great effect. In the final she would face Marta, who continued her outstanding play against the battle hardened Sabina to win the other semi final. This was as good as it would get for the PingZone lady however, as she like others who had fallen earlier, she couldn’t handle Rebeccas fast paced style in the final match. Rebecca would go on to make it an Ormeau TTC double following a 3-0 win.
In the Masters event, Daryl Strong kept up his fantastic record as the top Veteran player in the country as he cruised to another win, beating Norman Nabney in the final, while in the Class 2, defensive maestro Thomas Earley overcame Ballincollig TTC player Ian Brown to take thee top prize.
Following a hugely successful days play, there was a nice wine reception in the restaurant where the winners were awarded with their prizes and everyone enjoyed something sweet. It was a nice touch after a hard days organising, umpiring and playing from all involved!