Successful West of Ulster Open for local players

Heather Willams keeps her eye on the ball

Heather Willams keeps her eye on the ball

Last Sunday saw a thrilling days tennis played out to large galleries on finals day at the West of Ulster Championship. Sponsored for the fourth year running by Blake’s of the Hollow, the

Championships saw an increased entry of over 100 players converge on Enniskillen Tennis Club over the course of the week to compete for 15 titles across three grades.

On the back of the strong coaching structures in place at the Enniskillen club, we are now beginning to see the local junior talent emerge to challenge the established players at senior level with centre stage this week going to Laura Griffin as she captured the A Ladies singles title.

While Griffin’s powerful forehand was much in evidence it was her angled backhand returns and a superb display of serving that helped Laura secure her first West of Ulster singles title.

Playing with fellow club member Jared Monaghan, Laura was also involved in a titanic struggle for the A mixed doubles title, eventually losing out narrowly 6/7 7/6 3/6 to Omagh’s Mark Smith and Nikki Hawkes. Despite the pressure, all four players held serve through the first two sets with a single break of service enough to see the Omagh pairing squeeze through to victory.

In the A men’s doubles it was the pairing of Enniskillen coach Matthew McGann and top junior Ronan McKeever who came from a set down to exact revenge on number one seeds Francis Venzon and John Maguire for defeat in this same competition 12 months earlier. With ferocious hitting from both pairs, the outcome was always going to be tight, but McGann and McKeever dovetailed well to secure their first ever win over Venzon and Maguire, 3/6 6/4 6/4.

Venzon ultimately took some silverware home with a top class display of serving to beat Matthew McGann 6/4 6/4 in the A men’s singles, leaving Francis as the only player in this years event to retain his West of Ulster title.

The ultra-competitive B section also saw impressive local success as Clive Funston captured the B singles title with a closely fought three set victory over fellow club mate Chris Cieplucha . Both men then combined to win the men’s doubles marking a magnificent double for Funston to add to his B title from the West of Ireland Championships held two weeks ago in Sligo.

Funston’s rise through the ranks is even more remarkable given he only took up tennis in his late thirties but a combination of lethal spin, vicious serving and a keen competitive streak have helped the former badminton player achieve many successes on the tennis court.

There was further success for Enniskillen as a rejuvenated Donal Burns joined forces with Omagh’s Rachel Logan to take a tense victory 13-11 in a third set tie break against Ollie McShea and Martina Boyd. Logan had earlier taken the B Ladies singles and doubles to close out a wonderful triple success for the Omagh star.

The C section events were well supported with winners drawn from Milford in Donegal down to Cavan. Fermanagh gained their share with Irvinestown’s Stephen Phair and Catherine Taggart taking a straight sets victory in the C Mixed and Enniskillen’s own Ruth Armstrong and Enid Redmond claiming the C doubles title.

During prize giving, club Chairwoman, Maxine Leary thanked Blake’s of the Hollow for their ongoing and generous sponsorship and noted the strong support of clubs from across West Ulster which is fundamental to the continued success of the tournament.

Winners from the local Enniskillen club were A Ladies Singes Laura Griffin; A Men’s Doubles Matthew McGann/Ronan McKeever; B Men’s Singles Clive Funston; B Men’s Doubles Clive Funston/Chris Cieplucha; B Mixed Donal Burns; C Ladies Doubles Ruth Armstrong/Enid Edmond

Other Winners were A Men’s Singles Francis Venzon; A Ladies Doubles Elaine Chambers/Donna McSorley; A Mixed Mark Smith/Nikki Hawkes; B Ladies Singles – Rachel Logan; B Ladies Doubles Mary Cuthbertson / Rachel Logan, B Mixed Rachel Logan; C Men’s Singles Joe Grimes; C Ladies Singles Maria Jones; C Men’s Doubles Joe Grimes / Mattias Winkler;  C Mixed Stephen Phair/Catherine Taggart

Consolation Winners: A Events Ronan McKeever, Matthew McGann/Louise McGann, B Events Donal Burns, Kathleen Maguire, Jimmy Renfrew/Andrea Irvine, Lisa Greaves/Vanessa McBrien, Joe Grimes/Bruce Williams; C Events Andy Elliott, Matt Dillon/Andy Elliott, Mary Gilgunn / Bernie McManus, Alex Knowles/Michelle Kennedy

The Ulster winter tennis season started with the Junior open at the David Lloyd centre in Belfast.

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The strength of local tennis was recognised recently when John Maguire received a call up to the Irish colours....


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