THE Grand Finale of the Kildare Juvenile Badminton leagues was played last weekend in Kilcullen.
Portarlington Parochial proved the dominant club with seven teams in the nine finals played at U-11, U-13, and U-15. Each age group plays a Girls League, Boys League, and Mixed League.
Under-11 Girls were the first team on court for Portarlington Parochial.
They had met their opponents, Kilcullen, twice in the league and lost twice, so were doubly determined to make amends in the final. Ciara Faherty and Emily Whittle, Portarlington, both won their singles games against Leah Auld and Aisling Wilmot, Kilcullen.
Kilcullen levelled points when Kellet Gilchrist and Brona Dooley defeated Aisling Geogeghan and Anna Larke . The first doubles between Ciara Faherty and Anna Larke, Portarlington, and Leah Auld and Aisling Wilmot, Kilcullen, was nail-bitingly close but with the score at 29 all it was the Portarlington team who edged it 30/29.
Aisling Geogeghan and Emily Whittle fought bravely for Portarlingtom against Kellet Gilchrist and Brona Dooley, Killcullen, but fell short at the end by 30/25. With a match score of 3-3, out came the calculators, because now, game scores mattered. When the counting was done, Kilcullen were declared the victors by 12 scores.
The U-11 Boys faced Naas in their final. The match started much as the girls match. Diarmuid Faherty and Christopher Whittle, Portarlington, both won their singles matches, but Mark Grey and Ethan Kearon both lost theirs, so going into the doubles, the match score stood at 2-2.
Diarmuid Faherty and Mark Grey slowly pulled ahead of their Naas opponents, Brian Tobin and James Fallon, to win 30/21. The second game started as a cliff-hanger with first Christopher Whittle and Ethan Kearon, Portarlington, ahead, and then Ian Fallon and Sean Burke, Naas, gaining the upper score. This continued until the teams reached the lower 20’s, then Christopher and Ethan got a second wind and gained a few aces to run out winners 30-26. Game and match to Portarlington on a scoreline of 4-2.
At U-13 neither the Boys team or the Girls team from Portarlington reached a final, but the Mixed team of Aoife Geogeghan, Ciara Worrell, Matt Geogeghan and Adam Binnons made it. The faced a strong Kilcullen team with an even stronger, more vocal home crowd behind them, and the Portarlington team were not able to overcome this. Naas finished as comfortable winners.
Portarlington’s greatest strength lay in their U-15 players. Even though Portarlington had two very competitive Girls teams in Under 15, only the ‘A’ team reached the final. Clare Faherty, Portarlington, displayed both skill and tactics when she defeated Ciara Anderson, Kilcullen, 30/14. Rosslyn Hendy, Portarlington, showed total dominance when she defeated Wendy Daynes, Kilcullen, 30/9. Aoife Geogeghan and Jasmin Frey, Portarlington, more than met their matches in their singles game, refused to roll over over for their stronger opponents.
Instead, conscious of the 12 point loss to Kilcullen by the U-11 Girls, they fought and scraped for every point they could get, and both amassed credible scores even thought they lost. Portarlington had the stronger pair in 1st Doubles when Clare Faherty and Rosslyn Hendy outscored their opponents 30/9. Aoife Geogeghan and Jasmine Frey played the do or die match for Portarlington, and they did. At least they did score 12 points, three more than Kilcullen had in the previous game. With the match score level at 3-3 apiece, the calculators were out again. This time it was Port ahead by a margin or 17 scores.
The U-15 Boys team of Alex Whittle, Ethan Cox, Sean Faherty, and Andrew Meehan faced a young Naas team. The Naas team had neither the age, experience or strength to compete on an equal footing and the final created no atmosphere when Port gave a commanding performance to achieve a clean sweep of the games and win 6-0.
Portarlington was always going to win the U-15 Mixed Final because both teams in the final were Portarlington. In this no-holds-barred match, neither team was willing to concede a point, so this turned into the ‘match of the day’. In only one game was the margin of victory comfortable.
Two games were won on scores of 30/29. Three others finished 30/26. At the finish the ‘A’ team of Clare Faherty, Michelle Keegan, Andrew Meehan, and Sean Faherty squeaked out a win against Portarlington ‘B’, Hannah Kearobn, Rosslyn Hendy, Alex Whittle and Ethan Cox.
Southwest Leinster League
Following the completion of the League Finals, the Southwest Leinster Leagues are hot into the Knock-Out Cups.
Grade 1: League Champions, Portarlington Parochial, carry a -4 handicap which is a huge mountain to climb. Carlow Lawn Tennis Club and Carlow YM join Portarlington on -4. Gurteen slots in with a -2, and Johnswell and Mullingar play off scratch.
Grade 2: Again, the League winners carry a -4 handicap into the cut. This time, Mullingar are the team to carry -4. Grange also is deemed worthy of a -4. Carlow YM carries -2, and both Portarlington Parochial and Johnswell carry no handicaps.
Grade 3: Johnswell, according to the scoresheet,, looked easy winners in Grade 3, but 4 of the 6 games played went to 3 sets. A -4 handicap is nearly the norm win Grade 3, with Johnswell, Kildare CY, Kilcullen, Baltinglass, and Carlow YM all on -4. Rahan are handicapped -2, and Bough is scratch.
Grade 4: In their League Final, Bough and Rahan fought through 8n games, playing two 3-set games. Bough took both, but Rahan won sets in each, so came out of the match the winners. For their effort, Rahan achieved a -6 handicap, while Abbeyleix, Mullingar, and Bough carry a -5. Carlow LTC and Annacurra each carry a -5, and Athy RFC and Carlow YM are allowed play off scratch.
Grade 5: As the grades go lower, the differences in ability grows wider, and the handicaps get larger. Grade 5 League winners, Abbeyleix, carries a -8 handicap as do Ballinkillen, and Athy RFC. Johnswell, defeated finalist, comes in at -5, Bough, -2, Portarlington, -2, and Rathangan, scratch. Grade 6: St. Laurence’s, league winners, -7; runners-up, Rathangan, -5; Carlow YM, -2, and Myshall, scratch. As the Cups progress, the handicap committees are keeping a close eye on the contest to “see if they got it right.”
Portarlington Parochial may have the best U-15 players in the Kikldare leagues, but they were unable to compete in Community Games because their club draws players from several parishes. Milltown-Emperer, Westmeath, and Killoughey-Kilcormac, Offaly, contested the Midland Regional Final.
After a struggle, Killoughey-Kilcormac won the match, and went forward to the Leinster semi-finals and finals. Stramullen of Meath, were unable to field a team, so K/K were through to the final where they met Taghmon of Wexford.
Taghmon proved a very strong team, with two exceptionally strong boys, who were able to dominate their games. The closest KK could get to Taghmon was 15/21, which they scored in three games.
The Killoughey team was Kevin Bracken (captain), Mikey Ryan, Stephen Leonard, John Owens, Dylan Leonard, Edel Egan, Carol Mahon, Amy Dunican, Tara Phelan, and Emily White. Taghmon go forward to represent Leinster in the National Finals in Athlone.