THE premier youth trophy in Southwest Leinster Badminton, the Declan Casey Cup, was up for grabs in Vicarstown, in Co Laois, this past Sunday. Six teams contested for the honour of lifting the cup. The competition was divided into two qualifying pools. Johnswell of Kilkenny, Portarlington Parochial, and Kinnity contested in Pool A, while St Laurence’s of Kildare, Rahan, and Killoughey battled in Pool B.
In Pool A Johnswell edged past Portarlington Parochial in the opening game. Both sides level with three wins apiece. Individual points had to be counted to declare a winner and Johnswell outscored Portarlington by two points.
Portarlington Parochial then faced Kinnity with Portarlington winning the match 4-2.
The final match was Johnswell versus Kinnity with Johnswell coming out on top.
At the conclusion of the pool games, Johnswell went forward to a semifinal to meet the second place team in Pool B, Portarlington Parochial went into the second semifinal against the winners of Pool B, and Kinnity qualified for the Plate final.
In Pool B, the first match saw St Laurence take on Rahan where Rahan came out on top on points total scored after the match finished 3-3.
Next up was Killoughey, one of the new teams in the competition, versus St Laurence with Killoughey winning the match well 5-1.
The final game pitted Killoughey against near neighbours Rahan and while there were some close contests, Killoughey won the match 6-0.
Killoughey claimed first place in Pool B and qualified to meet Portarlington Parochial in one semifinal, and St Laurence were up against Johnswell in the second semifinal. Rahan were relegated to the Plate Final, even though they had defeated St Laurence on total points scored.
In the first semi-final, St Laurence’s took on Johnswell and defending champions Johnswell returned to the final.
The second semi-final pitted Killoughey against Portarlington Parochial. It was a hard fought and incredibly close battle every step of the way. One of the highlight games of the competition had to be the 1st Men’s between Patrick Minnock and Eoghan Phelan, Killoughey, and Sean Faherty and Andrew Meehan, Portarlington Parochial (PP). On a scoreline of 21/23, 25/23, 25/23, Patrick and Eoghan captured the game for Killoughey. Helen Norton and Emily White, Killoughey, started well against Clare Faherty and Lydia Hendy, PP, but faded in later stages of the match losing 21/18, 21/13.
Ethan Cox and Sean Faherty, PP, were seldom threatened in their game against Eoghan Phelan and Alan Guy winning21/11, 21/16. Lydia Hendy and Hannah Kearon, PP, controlled the second ladies games from start to finish, against Emily White and Deirdre Daly.
However, with their backs to the wall, Killoughey performed better in the Mixed. After dropping the 1st set 22/20, Helen Norton and Patrick Minnock, Killoughey, came back to win 1st Mixed 21/18, 21/17, against Clare Faherty and Andrew Meehan, PP. In the final game of the match, 2nd Mixed, Alan Guy and Deirdre Daly won for Killoughey 21/18, 21/17, against Hannah Kearon and Ethan Cox, PP.
With the match level at three games apiece, tournament directors needed a tie-break. According to badminton rules, the 1st tiebreak is to count sets won by each team, then to count individual scores. By virtue of the sets picked up in 1st Men’s and 1st Mixed, Portarlington Parochial were declared winners, three wins and eight sets to three wins and six sets.
In a repeat of the 2010 final, Portarlington Parochial met Johnswell. The Johnswell 1st Men’s defeated the Portarlington pair of Sean Faherty and Andrew Meehan, 21/13, 21/6. Hannah Kearon and Clare Faherty (PP) bounced back to win 21/13, 21/6 against Fiona Whitely and Grainne Walsh.
Johnswell edged out Sean Faherty and Ethan Cox in the 2nd Men’s in a game that had all spectators on the edge of their chairs.
Portarlington 2nd Ladies rose to the occasion, when Clare Faherty and Lydia Hendy defeated Grainne Walsh and Eilis Brennan 21/13, 21/8. With only two games to go, and the score tied at 2-2 wins apiece, Portarlington held the upper hand with the set won in 2nd Men’s.
Johnswell took back the lead by winning 1st Mixed21/16, 21/5 when Shane Comerford and Fiona Whitely defeated Lydi Hendy and Andrew Meehan.
The entire match and tournament outcome hung on 2nd Mixed.
Ethan Cox and Hannanh Kearon (PP) lost the 1st set 15/21 to Eilis Brennan and Paddy Brennan but the Portarlington pair dug deep within themselves and won the next two sets for Portarlington, 21/15, 21/13. Both sides were level, three wins apiece, seven sets apiece, so now the countback of individual scores began.
At the end, only 18 scores separated the two sides after 14 sets of badminton. A huge cheer erupted from the Portarlington supporters when their team was announced the winners, 246 points to 228 points.
Newcomers Kinnity contested the Plate Final against last year’s beaten finalists, Rahan. Each team made changes to their line-ups. The Plate Final was as highly contested as the championship final and generated as much enthusiasm and excitement for the players and supporters. Mark Flaherty and James Coughlan led off for Kinnity against Eoin Larkin and Sean Grennan, Rahan, in 1st Men’s with the Kinnitty pair winning the game 2-1. However, that dropped middle set was to prove costly. The Rahan pair of Aine Hickey and Olive Kearney, 1st Ladies, won in straight sets against Megan Flynn and Rebecca Carroll, Kinnity, 22/20, 21/16. 2nd Men’s also went Rahan’s way with Sean Grennan and Ross McMahon outscoring James Coughlan and Aaron Browne, Kinnity, 21/19, 21/8.
Kinnity got back on track in 2nd Ladies with a win for Rebecca Carroll and Sorcha Dempsey, 23/21, 21/18 against Aine Hickey and Alison Dooley.
Eoin Larkin and Olive Kearney, Rahan, outpointed Mark Flaherty and Megan Flynn21/13, 21/14 to win 1st Mixed and swing the match back to Rahan.
Aaron Browne and Sorcha Dempsey did all they could for Kinnity, defeating Ross McMahon and Alison Dooley, Rahan, 21/14, 21/15, but that wasn’t enough. On the strength of the one set won by Eoin Larkin and Sean Grennan in 1st Men’s, Rahan were declared Plate Winners, seven sets to six.