Graham MacMullen hammers his way through the opposition to take the double at the Connacht Closed Grade B winning both the Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles. This is the second year Sligo City Badminton Club have hosted the Connacht Closed Grade B in the fabulous sports hall in Summerhill College. With some of the top players in Connacht at Grade E-H in the mix, there were some titanic battles.
It started off with the Men’s Singles and Ian Frizzell, Sligo City, was back to defend his treble title from last year. In the second round under 15 player Enda Clogher, Ballygar Galway, nearly unseated the title holder taking the first set 22-24. Ian Frizzell dug deep and battled it out overcoming the youngster in the next two sets 21-18, 21-14. Ian got through the semi-finals comfortably. In the finals, he was to face Sangeeth Gopalakrishnan, Ballina Mayo. Sangeeth had defeated Number 2 seed Sean Staunton, Ballinaheglish Roscommon, and Vidhu Balakrishnan, Ballina Mayo, to make it into the finals. Ian again got off to a bad start dropping the first set 18-21 but fought tooth and nail to win the sets 21-14, 21-15 and successfully defended his singles title.
In the Ladies singles number 2 seed Bernie Lavin, Boyle Roscommon, had to work hard against new Sligo City player Áine Norton who took the first set 20-22. Áine was unable to keep up the intensity needed as Bernie’s steel showed through as she determinedly won the next two sets. In the Finals Bernie faced off against under 15 player Jessica Feeney also from Boyle Roscommon. Bernie fought hard but Jessica’s training and practice at Singles paid off and she won the title in 2 straight sets.
The Men’s Doubles threw up some upsets when title defenders and number 2 seeds Ian Frizzell and Michael Healy, Sligo City, lost out to an aggressive onslaught from Vidhu Balakrishnan and Sangeeth Gopalakrishnan, Ballina Mayo. The play was hard and flat from the two Ballina men putting the Sligo City men on the defensive. Ian and Michael just couldn’t get control of the game and went out in two sets. Ex-champions Graham Mac Mullen and Paul Lynch, Sligo City, were back to reclaim their title they last won in 2015. Azhagiri Anbazhagan and James McLoughlin, Ballygar Galway took advantage of having already played a game where as the Sligo City pair had a bye in the first round. Keeping the pressure on and not giving any time for Graham and Paul to settle in they capitalised on the jitters and poor reaction times winning the first set 19-21. In the second set Graham and Paul were trailing behind badly but as the set went on they were starting to come into their own. Refusing to give an inch they battled their way to taking the set 24-22. With renewed confidence and now firing on all cylinders they took the third set 21-13. In the semi Finals they came up against Vidhu and Sangeeth who had taken out the number two seeds earlier. The first set got off very evenly with the scores neck and neck. Sangeeth who had already played four rounds of Men’s Singles started to show the effects when his leg gave trouble halfway through the first set. The first set ended with Paul and Graham keeping enough pressure on to get away at the end and seal the set at 23-21. With Vidhu having to play shots to protect his partner they were in major trouble. Graham and Paul mercilessly took advantage of this and hammered their way into the finals taking the second set 21-12.
On the other side of the draw Ballinaheglish, Roscommon, duo Sean Staunton and David Delaney’s stroll to the finals nearly came unstuck when Ballygar men Michael McLoughlin and Owen Casey put up a hell of a fight taking the first set 18-21 but were outdone by the power of the Roscommon men who came back hard winning the next two sets 21-15, 21-16.
The Finals began with Graham and Paul getting off to a very rocky start. Sean and David were very relaxed and in control. Before they knew it Graham and Paul were 14-7 down and things were looking bad. With a mountain to climb Sligo City’s most aggressive pairing were not going down without a fight. Upping their game and attacking relentlessly Graham and Paul slowly turned the game around. With a confidence boosting display the Sligo City men won the set 21-19. Going into the second set with confidence high Graham and Paul knew this match was for the taking. The start of the second set was neck and neck at 4-4 when the pressure on Sean and David began to show with the pair both making mistakes and hitting the shuttle to long and out. As Sean and David buckled under the pressure Graham and Paul were like juggernauts as they powered their way unstoppable to a 21-11 victory.
In the Ladies doubles Sligo City pairing of Deirdre Fox and Áine Norton put paid to the aspirations of number two seeds Helene Hanley and Veronica Quinn winning 21 -9, 21-12. This saw Áine and Deirdre facing off against Bernie Lavin, Boyle, and Corrina Delaney, Ballinaheglish, in the finals. The first set was neck and neck with Áine and Deirdre battling bravely. The steely determination of Bernie and Corinna with their refusal to give ground saw the Roscommon duo taking the first set 21-18. With their confidence high Bernie and Corinna stamped their authority on the second set taking it 21-14.
Mixed in badminton is very tactical game with players trying to protect their weaknesses while exploiting their opponent’s weaknesses. It’s a great game for men and women to play together. With 34 players entered into the competition this was the biggest of the draws. In the first half of the draw Paul Lynch and Jackie Mooney, Sligo City, knocked out number 3/4 seeds Enda Clogher and Jessica Feeney. Using their wealth of experience and tactics they easily overcame the under 15 duo. Paul and Jackie’s march to the finals hit a wall when they came up against number 1 seeds Roscommon brother and sister pairing of David and Corrina Delaney. While Pauls endurance started to flag there was no slowing down in David’s game, all the hurling that he plays paying off in his endurance. David and Corrina convincingly strode through to the finals beating Paul and Jackie 21-16, 21-12.
On the other side of the draw the Sligo City, number 3/4 seeds, the pairing of Graham Mac Mullen and Cliona McGowan had their eyes firmly on the prize. Cliona who was fresh in from her Saturday Morning GAA Training and Graham Mac Mullen full of confidence from winning the Men’s Doubles were on a mission. In the second round, they came up against pairing Vidhu Balakrishnan, Ballina, and Deirdre Fox, Sligo City. Graham and Cliona took the first set easily 21-8 but then had a hiccup when they lost the second 21-23. With a knock to the confidence, Graham and Cliona went into the third set determined to exploit their opponent’s weaknesses. Their new tactics worked well and easily dispatched their opponents 21-9. In the semi-finals, Graham and Cliona came up against their fellow club players the number two seeds Ian Frizzell and Bernie Lavin. Having played and lost to Ian and Bernie in a club training match on the previous Tuesday, Graham and Cliona were out to make amends. This was the match-up that Graham and Cliona were looking forward to. The speed and endurance of Ian Frizzell whose ability to move around the court and get shots back from positions that no one else would have gotten to that makes him a very hard opponent. Matched with his partner who is known for her steely determination and never give in attitude. Against them were Graham Mac Mullen, a man who relies on relentless attacking and speed, and Cliona McGowan who has power, speed and great ability to vary her play. Fighting tooth and nail with both sides fully committed, Graham and Cliona were able to edge in front and stay there taking the first set 21-18. Confidence high going into the second set Graham and Cliona knew they were in a very strong position but also knew that their opponents would fight all the way. Unfortunately for Ian and Bernie they were outmatched on the day losing 21-16 in the second set. This put an end to Ian’s and Bernie’s hopes for adding the mixed title to their Singles and Ladies Doubles titles respectively.
Buzzing from their Victory over their fellow club mates Graham and Cliona faced up against the Delaney brother and sister pairing. After beating David Delaney earlier in the Men’s Finals Graham Mac Mullen was ready to take control and dominate the game. Not used to playing such a strong and aggressive pairing David and Corrina struggled with the onslaught of smashes from both Graham and Cliona. Taking the first set very convincingly 21-11.
Graham’s style of play was eating up huge amounts of energy the question was could he keep it up. Having already played 15 sets could he keep it going? After some coaching from fellow club-mate Sean Staunton, the Roscommon duo was back in the second set and they were not going down without a fight. At the mid-set interval, the scores were very close with Graham and Cliona just ahead at 11-9. Graham was looking very glad of the 90-second break to recover for the next half of the set. Cliona was looking very comfortable having the advantage of being relatively fresh with 8 sets played. On the resumption of play, the Delaneys fell apart and just had no answer to Graham and Cliona who were absolutely relentless never giving the Delaneys a chance. Graham and Cliona went on to win the next 10 points straight finishing 21-9.
Men’s Singles – Ian Frizzell (Sligo City)
Ladies’ Singles – Jessica Feeney (Boyle)
Men’s Doubles – Graham Mac Mullen, Paul Lynch (Sligo City)
Ladies’ Doubles – Bernie Lavin (Boyle), Corrina Delaney(Ballinaheglish)
Mixed Doubles – Graham Mac Mullen, Cliona McGowan(Sligo City)
Thanks to Paul Dolan and Paul Lynch for all the great organising of the event. Between matching up players, scheduling the matches and setting up and putting away again these guys put so much into Badminton. Thanks to everyone who also helped out on the day. Thanks to Summer Hill College for the use of their facilities. Thanks to James Connolly for taking some wonderful photos which you can check out on Sligo City Badminton Club’s Facebook page. Finally thanks to all the players who made it such a great day.
Article by Connacht Badminton.