Cliona is a star at the West of Ireland
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).