Cliona is a star at the West of Ire­land

The Sligo Champion - - SPORT -

SLIGO play­ers cap­tured a record num­ber of tro­phies in this year’s West of Ire­land Ten­nis Tour­na­ment, held over the May Bank Hol­i­day Week­end. The stand out re­sults came from the Sligo ladies with top hon­ours go­ing to the youngest and old­est ever champions.14-year-old Cliona Walsh emerged as the Ladies Cham­pi­onships when win­ning the Di­vi­sion One ti­tle. The tal­ented young­ster had a first round en­counter with Sligo’s Siob­han O’Sul­li­van, a for­mer win­ner of the event. Cliona’s serves and shot se­lec­tion were su­perb, and while pushed hard by O’Sul­li­van, Walsh ran out a com­fort­able 6/2 6/2 win­ner. The fi­nal match saw Cliona pit­ted against an­other for­mer win­ner, Kellie O’Flynn. O’Flynn, who has North Sligo connections and plays her ten­nis out of the Fitzwilliam Club, had com­pre­hen­sively ac­counted for the No 2 seed Donna McSor­ley in her open­ing round. The fi­nal was ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated, and fully lived up to its billing, pro­duc­ing the best ten­nis of the week­end. While Cliona took the first game of the open­ing set, Kellie’s guile and experience saw her set­tle more quickly into the match, and she soon took con­trol, win­ning that set 6/4.O’Flynn’s win­ning mo­men­tum car­ried into the sec­ond set as she raced into a two game ad­van­tage. At this stage, Walsh seemed to regroup, and slowly but surely brought her A game to the court. The sec­ond set was a real show-stop­per, with both girls play­ing bril­liantly and pro­duc­ing shots out of the top drawer. The tide turned Walsh’s way, and she took the sec­ond set 6/4. The ca­pac­ity crowd, mostly root­ing for the lo­cal girl, were on ten­ter­hooks as the third set kicked off, but it was soon ap­par­ent that the Sligo young­ster was now in to­tal charge. This set turned out to be a rout, with Cliona tak­ing it 6/0. While Cliona’s ten­nis was re­mark­able for its qual­ity and fe­roc­ity, it was her men­tal re­silience and tough­ness, es­pe­cially when a set and two games down, that re­ally im­pressed the spec­ta­tors. It was a re­mark­able come­back for a 14-year-old in her first Se­nior Tour­na­ment in front of her home crowd, and is surely a ma­jor mile­stone on what will be a great ca­reer in the sport. While al­most all the at­ten­tion was rightly fo­cused on the Ladies Premier Fi­nal, an­other piece of drama was be­ing played out on an ad­ja­cent court, where Sligo’s Olivia Seery was bid­ding to be the old­est ever win­ner of a West Sin­gles Event. Olivia is an in­dis­putable legend in lo­cal ten­nis cir­cles, play­ing matches all over the coun­try against play­ers who are usu­ally decades her ju­nior. She had a good run in the mixed dou­bles with son-in-law Brian Bre­heny, but the Ladies Di­vi­sion 3 sin­gles ti­tle was her prime ob­jec­tive. It was an­other lo­cal player, Ita Brady, who was the op­pos­ing fi­nal­ist, and this match de­vel­oped into a marathon. The first set went to Seery 7/6, while Brady fought back to take the sec­ond set 6/2. The fi­nal set swung one way, then the other, and it was no sur­prise that it went down to the wire on a tie break, with Olivia win­ning the vi­tal fi­nal point to cap­ture the cov­eted ti­tle. The Sligo men were not to be left be­hind by the women, and Stephen Cun­ning­ham part­nered Tony Comiskey to win the Div 2 Dou­bles. There was a par­tic­u­larly strong en­try in this sec­tion this year, and the top seeds had to be on top of their game to reach the fi­nal. Here they came up against Timmy Hen­nessy from the Tralee Club, part­nered this year by En­niskillen man Davy Thomp­son. The lo­cal lads lost the first set, but as­serted them­selves to take the sec­ond. The last set was also a cliff-hanger go­ing to a tie-break, which was de­servedly won by Cun­ning­ham and Comiskey. It was an all-Sligo fi­nal in the Ladies Di­vi­sion 2 Fi­nal, with Ma­rina Swann and Paula Watt fac­ing off against Hi­lary Kil­caw­ley and Jo Mul­lan. Swann and Watt were top seeds, but were pushed hard by Kil­caw­ley and Mul­lan, es­pe­cially in the sec­ond set, be­fore even­tu­ally pre­vail­ing for a mer­ited vic­tory. Sligo’s Noreen Cas­sidy is al­ways a con­tender on fi­nals day, and this year saw her take the Div 2 Mixed Dou­bles with part­ner Clive Fun­ston. They had to weather a de­ter­mined chal­lenge from Stephen Cun­ning­ham and Grainne Coll in the fi­nal. Cas­sidy was up again in the Ladies Div 2 Fi­nal, ac­com­pa­nied by Aoifín Shorten, but they were un­lucky to lose out to Nikki Hawkes and Donna McSor­ley. Lo­cal play­ers dom­i­nated the Ladies Di­vi­sion 3 event, with an all Sligo fi­nal between Anne Arm­strong and Mar­ian Coyne against Kay Cur­ley and Paula De­vaney. This was also a three set marathon, even­tu­ally go­ing to Arm­strong and Coyne 1/6, 6/2, 7/5. In the Div3 Mixed sec­tion, the fan­cied Sligo duo of Sinead Gal­lagher and Frank Moy­lan made it safely through to the Fi­nals, go­ing down fight­ing on a score of 5/7 6/ 6/1.

Ellen Kilcoyne over­all fe­male ath­lete of the year award win­ner in St Attracta’s Com­mu­nity School. The ath­lete re­ceived her award from Deputy Prin­ci­pal Anne Brady.

Paul Scan­lon, Clive Kivle­han, Trevor Hunter, Patsy Prior, Jean Dou­glas, Carol Galvin and Ian Howard launch­ing the Rans­boro Road Race which takes place on June 30th next with pro­ceeds go­ing to the Elaine O’Hal­lo­ran Med­i­cal Fund. Pic: Carl Brennan.

Cliona Walsh (Div 1 Cham­pion) with Olivia Seery (Div 3 Cham­pion).

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