Royal & Prior Minor Boys dominate in Ulster and All-Ireland Schools' Badminton Championships

Staff Reporter

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Staff Reporter

Royal & Prior Minor Boys dominate in Ulster and All-Ireland Schools' Badminton Championships

Royal and Prior Minor Boys - Ulster and All-Ireland winners

The Royal & Prior Minor Boys Div.1 team consisted of 4 1st year boys- Benjamin Darragh, Luke Magee, Lewis Kee & Jamie Kee.
The boys began their badminton season really well with a 6-0 win over Friends School Lisburn, the boys continued in the same vein beating all of their opponents 6-0. With such an excellent depth throughout the team the boys stormed through the season. In the Cup semi-finals the boys played Friends School and earned their place in the final winning in a fashion they had become all to accustomed to.
In the Ulster Finals the Minor Boys won the Cup Final against Bangor Grammar 6-0. Later in the afternoon the boys played the same school in the Div.1 League Final and the boys proudly were titled Ulster Cup Holders and Div. 1 League Champions.
These fantastic results meant the Minor Boys qualified for The All-Ireland Schools' Finals in Gormanston, Co. Meath, on Wednesday 13th March. An early start at 6am saw some sleepy heads entering the bus. Just over 3 hours later we were in Gormanston, the sleepy boys had transformed into enthusiastic badminton players anticipating the day’s line-up. The 1st match was against Leinster representatives Terenure. Terenure arrived with 4 teams so we knew by their dominant presence they were not to be messed with. The 1st match got underway Benjamin Darragh took on a rival from the Irish front, Luke Davis. The fast speed of the shuttle unset Luke’s game and Benjamin mopped up all of Luke’s mistakes and with every point Benjamin grew in confidence and widened the distance on the scoreboard until Benjamin 30-22. Luke Magee beat Conn Murray 30-19, Lewis Kee beat Ronan Quinn 30-16 & Jamie Kee beat Oisin Shannon 30-24. Benjamin & Luke took their doubles 30-18 followed by an affirming double win by Lewis & Jamie 30-15. The best start possible!!
The Muster Representative, Blackwater School were a strong side who seemed to play a tactical foul dropping their 1st player Mark Ormond to 3rd place.
This move unsettled the minor boys and they displayed some nerves going into this match. Munster and Leinster had drawn earlier in the day so we knew we only needed 3 points and we would be All-Ireland Winners but the job was still ahead and getting there would require skill, control and determination. Benjamin again took his singles against Cathal Murthy, as did Luke and we were 2 up.
Next up was Lewis and the game changer was played. Lewis understood the gravity of the task ahead and with a great level of maturity point by point, he warded off his opponent Mark Ormond. Lewis seemed to have the’ golden touch’- everything he touched glided, smashed, cleared, dropped, fell perfectly into space and his opponent had no answer. Jamie was up next and got off to a great start changing ends at 15-9, however it was at this point Jamie seemed to doubt his ability to beat his opponent. The task seemed to overawe and Jamie’s opponent was up 25-22. It looked like a loss was enviable when out of nowhere Jamie came alive again and won in nail-biting fashion 30-28. It was over the boys had made real their dreams of being All-Ireland Champions. The doubles were played out on a relaxed and confident style to cross the finish line unmarred by their opposition.
In the history of our school and in Ulster Schools' history this cup has never graced the cabinet of any Ulster school, so this Minor Boys Div.1 Cup means so much to us and we are proud recipients for the 2016/17 season. Well done to this young group of lads for putting in such a valiant fight on finals day.

Senior Boys Runners-Up in Ulster Senior Boys Cup
The season of 2015/2016 saw the dynamics of the Senior Boys team change immensely with the loss of Mark Laird, Josh McMullan & Aaron Magee. With a new season underway it was time to see the dawn of a few more players. Jack Macbeth stepped up to join Aaron Knox. Gregg Mooney & Philip Moore also made the team. It was a tough season and a few close matches were played. Early in the season we were narrowly better 4-2 by Friends. From here on the results following a familiar rhythm, losing 4-2 to Sullivan Upper & Coleraine Grammar. Although we played well we lacked the ability to take the match to a draw.
In the Ulster Cup we were drawn against Bangor Grammar School and Ben Wallace & Dylan Laird stepped in to strengthen the side. And so it was the boys delivered and a draw was declared. After a count back on sets Raphoe progressed through to the Ulster Finals, held on Friday 3rd March in Ulster Racquets Club. We were looking forward to taking on Friend’s in the final now we were in stronger position, however Ben Wallace & Dylan Laird pulled out.
Against Friends in the Ulster Cup final Matthew Woods & Greg Jacob stepped in again and played with great attitude and fight. Jack Macbeth played a fantastic singles match in a 3 setter. Aaron Knox played his singles and also won. Combined the boys took on Friend’s no. 1&2 and another win was secured. Jack & Aaron both have developed immensely over the season and have had great badminton seasons outside of school. Best wishes to Jack Macbeth as he completes his Leaving Certificate in June. It would have been great to have picked up an Ulster Cup title before Jack’s departure. Greg & Matthew played very well but their opponents won out on experience. Many thanks to the boys for stepping in at such late notice.

Senior Girls Runners Up in Ulster’s Senior Girls Cup
The Senior Girls had a really successful season. We knew from the outset that we would sooner or later meet ‘The Strong’ Hunterhouse team headed by the Woods twins Rebecca & Rachel, Irish U-18 players.
The girls put this knowledge behind them as they pressed forward taking one match at a time. Against Sullivan Upper the girls (Emma Darragh, Kim Laird, Leah Magee & Chloe Lowry) were solid in their performance taking a 6 matches 6-0. Against Coleraine & Wallace ‘B’ the girls once again claimed a clean sweep.6-0, 6-0 (Emma Darragh, Kim Laird, Leah Magee & Leah Darragh) opening a pathway to the Ulster Finals.
In the final game of the season, which was a Div.1 play off for a place in the League Final, Raphoe took on Wallace ‘A’ team headed my Beth Stephenson. In a head to head, each team knowing that the reward would be a place in the finals tensions were flying high. Emma put up a great fight against Beth but the win belonged to Beth. Kim Laird held her nerve and beat her opponent fairly easily. Emma & Kim played some great stuff and won their doubles. 2nd ladies lost and 3rd & 4th singles. The final spot was then reserved for Wallace.
On Ulster Finals Day the Senior Girls had to face arch rivals Hunterhouse in the finals of the Senior Girls Cup. We were delighted to have reached the finals and deep inside we knew the honour would end here. Hunterhouse with a 4-strong-side beat Raphoe 6-0. Hunterhouse proceeded on to play in the All-Irelands and won fairly easily. Well done ladies! Best wishes to Emma Gallagher & Leah Darragh who will be doing their leaving cert. Emma Gallagher has been an All-Ireland Champion in the Minor & Junior section.