The two day Irish Senior Nationals event came to a close on Sunday 4th February at Baldoyle Badminton Centre. After a very exciting first day, the finals day would do well to surpass the excitement and drama that unfolded which saw many of the seeded pairings scrape through to the semi-finals. There were some casualties on the way as only two of the 3/4 seeds made it through to the semi-finals.
The theme of the day was whether we would see a repeat of previous years, as last year's winners looked to retain their championships. The first final saw Josh Magee win his fourth Men's Doubles Nationals title in a row. This year he went on search of victory for the first time without his brother Sam. Josh has recently paired off with youngster Paul Reynolds (18) who has now claimed his first senior Nationals win. Josh & Paul overcame the on-form team of the competition in Stuart Lightbody & Sam McKay (21-16, 21-10). The pair of Lightbody/ McKay had earlier that day played in arguably the best match of the competition with their semi-final win over number two seeds Nhat Nguyen & Daniel Magee.
The second final of the day saw Sinead Chambers & Jennie King reclaim their Women's Doubles Nationals title, in a 2-0 victory over the young pairing of Rachel Woods & Rebecca Woods. This would be Sinead's 7th Women's Doubles Nationals and Jennie's 6th Women's Doubles Nationals. The team of Chambers/King impressed throughout the tournament as they looked extremely determined, not giving their opponents any real opportunities to snatch a win.
The Men's Singles final had looked from the early stages of the tournament like we would get the number 1 and number 2 seeds competing against each in an entertaining final. This is exactly what was delivered, with both players playing some amazing shots and showing great control with the shuttle. Nhat Nguyen showed why he has received so much praise and excitement about his play throughout Europe. Nhat at the age of 17 has now won his third straight Men's Singles Nationals title with a 21-12, 21-13 victory over Josh Magee.
Rachael Darragh showed why she was ranked number 1 coming into the Irish Senior Nationals. In all Rachael's matches throughout the competition she only allowed her opponent twice to get double digit points against her. Rachael beat Kate Frost in the final who had shown some very good form herself coming into the match. The first game was very competitive between the two finalists, but Rachael's power was too much for Kate. Rachael would win the match 2-0 (21-15, 21-8).
The final match of the Irish Senior Nationals was arguably the most eagerly awaited match throughout the day. This would be the first time since 2008 that Chloe and Sam Magee would not win the Mixed Doubles Irish Nationals. With Sam Magee's late withdrawal due to illness this left a brilliant opportunity for a mixed pairing to put their stamp on the bracket. The favourites throughout the competition was the Commonwealth Games pairing of Ciaran & Sinead Chambers. They would meet the unseeded pairing of Paul Reynolds & Rachael Darragh who both had a very successful day winning Nationals titles in the Women's Singles and Men's Doubles respectively. The match was played at an extremely high standard, especially from the eventual winners Ciaran & Sinead Chambers. After the final point you could see the delight in both of the player's faces. After a fantastic showing throughout the competition, Ciaran & Sinead have now built some serious momentum before they go to Australia to compete for Northern Ireland in the Commonwealth Games in April.
U15 Irish Nationals
The U15 Irish Nationals had two standout competitors throughout the day. Matthew Cheung & Sophia Noble won three U15 Nationals titles each. This accomplishment cannot be understated as there were some very talented players on show throughout the competition.
Sophia won her first Nationals title of the day with a convincing win over Number 1 seed Julia O'Reilly in the Girls' Singles finial. Sophia impressed with a 21-9, 21-8 victory. Sophia's next Nationals victory would come with her fellow finalist in the Girls' Singles, Julia O'Reilly. The pairing would come up against a strong partnership in numbner one seeds, Laura Comer & Lucy Xu. Sophia and Julia battled out a hard fought victory in the first game 21-19 before stepping up their performance to an extremely high level in the second game to finish the match 21-19, 21-14. Sophia's last Nationals win would come with Matthew Cheung, who had also won two U15 Nationals titles at this stage. Matthew & Sophia started off the Mixed Doubles final with no fatigue at all despite playing in each of the previous finals. Matthew & Sophia would go on to win 21-9, 21-17.
Just before the Mixed Doubles final, Matthew Cheung would be celebrating his second U15 Nationals win, with a 2-0 win in the Boys' Doubles final with his partner Vincent Pontanosa. Matthew & Vincent would defeat the strong pairing of Scott Guildea & Ben Lawlor, 21-15, 21-12. Matthew's first U15 Nationals title of the day came when Matthew defeated Ben Lawlor with a clinical performance. This performance would set Matthew up for a very successful day. Winning three Nationals titles is an outstanding achievement by Matthew & Sophia as they continue their impressive development in Badminton.
Watch the action from Courts 4 & 5 through the Badminton Ireland YouTube Page