The main business of the weekend was the Irish Junior 40x20 Nationals held at Cavan and Monaghan venues. Lorraine Havern of Down beat second seed Shauna Hilley from Wicklow in impressive fashion in a surprisingly one-sided final. Both Stephen Cooney and Ian McLoughlin were contenders in the top boys’ event the 19 and under singles. McLoughlin was an early casualty as he was well beaten by Patrick Funchion from Kilkenny, however Cooney, the number two seed, had a great tournament. He accounted for Cian Connolly of Roscommon, 216, 21-9 in his opening match and then he beat all-Ireland minor singles finalist, Padraig O’Carroll of Limerick 21-13, 21-13 to reach the decider against the number one seed, Caolan Daly of Tyrone.
In one of the best finals in recent years, the Ballaghaderreen man led 19 aces to 17 in the first game but could not finish and Daly stormed back to take this one 21 aces to 19. Undaunted Cooney totally dominated the second and was rewarded with a fine 21 aces to 13 victory to send the match to a tie-break third game. Daly was feeling the pressure at this stage and needed the allowed 15 minutes injury time out to attend to a heavily bandaged ankle. Cooney led for much of the tie-break but he too ran into problems as cramp set in mid-way through the game. As the rules do not allow for a cramp injury time-out the Ballaghaderreen man battled bravely but came unstuck as he lost the tie-breaker agonisingly 11 aces to 9. It was hard luck on the talented Mayo ace who also missed out on an automatic place on the Irish team who travel to the US at the end of December to compete in the US junior nationals. In other finals the girls’ u15 event was an all-Connacht final with victory going to the ever impressive Lauren O’Riordan of Roscommon over a game Ciana Ni Churraoin from Galway. Galway secured two girls’ titles in the girls’ under 16 B event as Adhna Ni Bhriannain beat Natasha Coughlan from Clare in three games while Heather Spellman, who lost out in the John Gaffney tournament final, teamed up with Elaine Nee from the Williamstown club to take the honours in the girls’ 11 and under final.
Ballaghaderreen commence the defence of their all-Ireland Senior Club title when they take on St Coman’s at Williamstown tonight at 8pm. Dessie Keegan, who was an injury doubt, has indicated that he will play and he will be joined by Joe McCann, Vincent Moran, and Stephen Cooney for what should be an interesting test for the champions.