Celtic Challenge 2018

Posted by Carissa Turner at 02:02 on 20 February 2018

February 10th and 11th saw the Welsh Under 13 squad travel to Dublin to compete in the Celtic Challenge where Wales competes against one team from Scotland (Lothian) and two Irish teams (Leinster and Alpha). After a successful training camp in January, the young Welsh team were excited to be travelling and competing together.  

Up bright and early on the Saturday morning, the squad were first in the hall, and were clearly in high spirits. Wales were due to take on Lothian first and it would be the boys' doubles that would get the match started. Matthew Logan and Matthew Swash took on first boys' doubles, Riddle and Bent. The boys got off to a nervous start losing 10-21 but managed to overcome their nerves in the second game and produced a more positive attacking style of play. Despite losing the second set 13-21, both boys had shown improvements throughout the game. Harper Leigh and Nye Bennet took on the Lothian pairing of Jack and Johnston, while Llwyd Crump and Nanditha Malagamuwa took on McCartney and Miller. Again, both Welsh pairings got off to a nervous start but demonstrated improvements in their second games. Leigh and Bennett lost their games 8-21, 13-21. Crump and Ahmad lost their first game 9-21 but really stepped up in their second game, narrowly missing out 20-22!

Next up was the girls’ doubles. Saffron Morris and Aarthy Aravind played Raman and McCallister. This game was set to be a battle from the start with the pairings competing point for point. The Lothian girls took the first set 21-23. Morris and Aravind were not about to give up and fought back to take the second game 21-17! With it all to play for, Morris and Aravind continued the display of strength and determination and were able to win the third game 21-18, making this Wales’ first win of the match. Maisie Kite and Anest Lewis Fells took on Taylor and Carlyle, while Sian Jones and Hannah Ahmad played Taylor and Bent. With Maisie being the only Welsh player to have any experience at this kind of event, the Welsh pairings found it difficult to overcome the experience of the Lothian players and despite a really brave and valiant effort from both pairings, both games ended 8-21, 7-21 to Lothian.

With the nerves now a little more settled, the boys’ singles were next on court. After a tough week suffering from the flu, Matthew Logan stepped bravely on court against Lothian's Finlay Jack. Logan took the first game comfortably 21-12. Jack then fought back in the second game, winning by a very close 20-22. Both boys put on a display of high level badminton with long, patient rallies, but it was Lothian who would take the third set this time 14-21. Making his debut singles performance for Wales, Matthew Swash took on Ben Riddle. Matthew competed well and made the Scottish player work hard for his points but on this occasion the game went to Lothian 13-21, 16-21. It would be down to Harper Leigh to take one of the boys' singles for Wales and despite a 13-21 loss in his first game against James Miller, Harper was able to pull out a brave and mature performance to win the next two games 21-15 and 24-22!

Saffron Morris took to the stage as Wales’ first girls singles player against Ishbel McCallister. Saffron produced a strong display of singles with excellent movement and aggressive play and was able to overcome her Scottish opponent 21-13, 21-13. Aarthy Aravind took on Vibhah Raman, while Maisie Kite took on Katie Taylor. Both girls gave their singles games everything. Neither of them gave up at any time and although Aarthy lost 9-21. 12-21, and Maisie lost 8-21, 13-21, both girls should be very proud of how hard they tried and their excellent attitudes on courts.

And so with the score standing at Lothian 9, Wales 3, Wales knew the match belonged to Lothian. However, the mixed was still to be played and all three pairs remained positive and stepped on court ready to give it their all. Nye and Anest took on Bent and Carlyle and lost 10-21, 11-21. Nanditha and Sian played against Johnston and Bent and lost 10-21, 12-21. Llwyd and Hannah took on Macartney and Taylor. They lost their first game 13-21. They came back fighting in their second game and despite narrowly missing out 23-25, both players should be extremely proud of their level of determination and Llwyd definitely wins the award for best celebrations between rallies!

The final score of the first match was Lothian 12, Wales 3, but despite the loss the young Welsh team were still in very high spirits and they seemed pleased with their efforts. All the coaches agreed that the players had been fantastic and were extremely proud of all of them. After a spot of lunch and a quick re-group it was time to take on the second match of the day against Alpha.

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Once again it would be down to the two Matthews to begin the Welsh campaign in the boys’ doubles. This was always going to be a tough match against top Irish player Matthew Cheung and his partner Carrig Muldoon. Cheung dominated during the game and the Welsh boys found it difficult to overcome his relentless attack but despite losing 8-21, 12-21, the Welsh boys knew they had taken lots of lessons from this game and were positive about the way forward for the future. Harper and Nye pulled off a quality display of boys' doubles and were able to overcome their opponents Quinn and Chee 21-18, 21-13. Llwyd and Nanditha continued this winning streak against Alpha’s Orr and Tang, winning their game 21-16, 21-14. A great start for the Welsh team.


Saffron and Aarthy followed suit and continued to dominate on the girls’ doubles court. They worked well as a pair and displayed some great attacking play to win their game 21-11, 21-8 against Xu and Jiandani. Alpha then fought back in the next two girls’ doubles games with Maisie and Anest unable to get the better of their opponents Woods and Woods and losing 5-21, 7-21, while Sian and Hannah also became victim to Alpha's girls, McKenna and Bell, losing 6-21, 7-21. With the score now standing at Wales 3, Alpha 3, it was clear that this was going to be a close match throughout.


In the boys’ singles, Matthew Swash stepped up to first boys' singles to face the toughest game of his career so far against Matthew Cheung. The scores of 3-21, 5-21, really did not reflect the game and Swash made Cheung work hard for every point through long, well thought-out rallies and he demonstrated that, with a little more experience, he is certainly showing lots of promise for the future. Harper took on Peter Quinn and dug really deep to take the game 21-9, 21-12. Harper worked hard to make sure he did not give his Irish opponent any chances. At third boys’ singles, it was Nye’s turn to take on Daniel Orr. Nye played with excellent control and a high level of maturity to win his game 21-12, 21-13. Wales were to take the lead overall once more.


With Saffron taking her singles 21-7, 21-5 against Roisin McKenna and Aarthy digging deep to take her singles 21-14, 21-17 against Laura Bell, Wales had now taken a 7-4 lead, but it was not over. Could they take one more game to win the match? Maisie took on Alana Jiandani and played out of her skin in the first game, narrowly missing out 20-22. The Irish player managed to gain more control in the second game with Maisie losing 10-21 but she should be really proud of how much she has progressed in the last 12 months.

And so, to the mixed. Matthew and Anest took on Alpha's Chee and Xu. After some long rallies and a good battle between both pairings, Alpha took the game 16-21, 14-21. Nanditha and Sian found it difficult to overcome the strength of their Irish opponents, Tang and Woods, losing their game 6-21, 12-21. The overall score now stood at 7-7! The last game of the day, and deciding game of the match, was down to Llwyd and Hannah who took on Muldoon and Woods. Despite Hannah being our youngest member of the team, she was not fazed by this situation. Both players fought hard on court. Llwyd continued with his excellent celebrations and he supported his young partner well. Unfortunately, they narrowly missed out this time 17-21, 13-21 leaving the final score at Wales 7, Alpha 8. It could not have been closer.


After a team talk from head coach Donal and some food at the venue, the team enjoyed an evening of fun and socialising with the other teams. This was a great time to make friends and relax in preparation for the final match tomorrow.

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On Sunday morning, Wales were first in the hall again, looking fresh and ready to play against today's opponents, Leinster. There was no doubt that this was going to be a tough game as Leinster had played a very close match with Lothian on the Saturday but, despite this knowledge, the Welsh team were up for the challenge.


The two Matthews started off the final match one more time. After playing two games together yesterday, it was becoming clear that they were starting to work well as a partnership, covering the court well and encouraging each other. They were unable to beat the Leinster pairing of Frost and Cooney, losing 18-21, 16-21 but they have certainly shown they are a pair to watch out for in the future. Harper and Nye, similarly proved that they are a potential pair for the future and produced some clever tactical rallies in their game against Fleming and Bridgman. The Leinster boys took this game 13-21, 14-21. The final game of boys' doubles was Llwyd and Nanditha against Dowling and O’Rourke. This epic battle was a demonstration of pure grit and determination. The Irish boys took the first game 13-21, however, the Welsh boys were not about to give up and fought back to take the second game 24-22 (A nail-biter of a game). Nanditha and Llwyd supported and encouraged each other fully through the third game. Their determination and sportsmanship paid off as they took the third game 21-16!


The girls’ doubles proved tricky for the Welsh team. Saffron and Aarthy pulled out a brave performance against Leinster’s Flynn and Flynn but lost the game 17-21, 13-21. Maisie and Anest found it very difficult to overcome the experience and strength of Bogoslovskaya and Kothiayal, losing 1-21 and 2-21 - there were, however, huge screams from the crowd when the Welsh girls scored their points! It was a similar story for our youngest pairing of Sian and Hannah who have never competed in an event like this before. Both girls gave their everything and never let their heads drop. They lost their game against Murphy and Murtagh 3-21, 7-21.


Matthew Logan was back in first boys’ singles position for this match. He competed against Leinster’s Robbie Frost. Matthew dug deep and tried a variety of tactics against the strong Irish player but eventually lost the game 8-21, 12-21. Matthew Swash took on Senan O’Rourke and despite losing his first game 13-21, Swash was able to play a more patient, controlled game in the second set winning it 21-19. In the third set, both boys fought hard. The rallies were long and tiring and both boys took the lead at some point in the game. As the game neared its conclusion, Matthew stretched out for a tricky shot and overstretched his ankle. He continued with the game bravely but was clearly in some pain. Despite this, he forced his opponent to continue to work hard. Matthew lost the third game 19-21 but should feel immensely proud of his performance and his attitude. Demonstrating a similar excellent attitude on court, Harper claimed a victory over opponent Fionn Dowling. Harper continued to display his cool, laid-back style on court. He was not fazed by the noise going on around him and he remained focused at all times, winning the game 21-16, 21-15.


In the girls’ singles, Saffron was first on court against Irish opponent Siofra Flynn. After watching Flynn yesterday, we all knew this was going to be a battle. Both girls demonstrated a high level of agility and fitness. Both matched each other technically and tactically. Flynn took the first game 11-21 but Saffron fought really hard to take the second 26-24 despite a dispute over the score which had to be sorted by the referee. Saffron continued to dig deep in the third end but the game would go to Flynn on this occasion 9-21. It is clear that these two girls will have many close battles in the future. Watch this space. Meanwhile, on the next court, Aarthy was also having a battle against Eva Bogoslovskaya. Aarthy took the first game 21-19. The nail-biting second game went to the Irish player 20-22. With both girls looking tired in the third set it would be the Leinster player that would take the game on this occasion 13-21. Maisie’s singles against Saumya Kothiyal was not as close as the other girls’ singles but Maisie pulled out a brave performance and continued to play with a big smile on her face, as always. The game went to Kothiyal 6-21, 3-21.


With just the mixed left to play, Nye and Anest stepped up first against Bridgman and Flynn. The game went to Leinster 8-21, 8-21. It was similar story for Nanditha and Sian who lost to Cooney and Murphy 3-21, 6-21 and finally Llwyd and Hannah tried to repeat their epic performance from yesterday but could not quite manage it on this occasion losing to Fleming and Murtagh12-21, 9-21. The final score of the match was Leinster 13, Wales 2.

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Despite a tough weekend, all the coaches agreed that every single player performed out of their skin. They all gave 100% throughout the competition, even when things got tough. They supported each other and behaved with maturity and professionalism at all times. They certainly were a credit to the Welsh squad, to their parents and most importantly to themselves! It was great to see that they had learned from the experience and that they are going to take these lessons home with them to help them progress for the future. The coaches would like to thank the parents who travelled with us to the event for their continued support. We would also like to thank Leinster Junior badminton for their excellent hospitality, it really was second to none! And finally, thank you to Steve, our driver from Ferris Coaches for getting us safely to and from the event!