By Chris Caldwell
RACHAEL Darragh retained her crown as Irish Senior National champion on Sunday afternoon following a peerless display which further cemented her position as the number one ranked ladies singles player in the country.
She cruised through the rounds en route to her second successive title, which was sealed courtesy of a 2-0 (21-15, 21-8) win over Kate Frost. She dropped no sets and only twice conceded double figure points totals to her opponents, who were unable to match her over the two day event.
The Raphoe lady was delighted with her singles triumph, but having lost to Lisburn’s Ciaran and Sinead Chambers in the mixed doubles decider, she was a little disappointed not to claim two titles at the weekend.
Playing alongside 18-year-old Paul Reynolds, Rachael was hoping they would become the first winners of the mixed crown since 2008 who weren’t her aunt and uncle, Chloe and Sam Magee following their late withdrawl due to the latter falling ill.
In the end, it was the favourites throughout the competition, the Chambers pairing, who like Rachael will represent Northern Ireland at April’s Commonwealth Games in Australia, who took the top prize following a match played to the highest standards.
“My main aim going in was the singles, so it’s nice to achieve that, although I had hopes to win th emixed as well,” she observed.
“I’m really happy with my singles performances. I went in confident, but it’s the National Championships so it’s a bit nervy because anything can happen, but thankfully I played really well.”
It wasn’t just Rachael who was flying the flag for Raphoe, though, as Josh Magee teamed up with Reynolds to win his fourth successive men’s doubles crown, his first without brother Sam, and he also finished as runner-up to Nhat Nguyen in the men’s singles. And Josh’s older brother Daniel teamed up with 17-year-old Nguyen to reach the semi-finals of the men’s doubles.
Rachael, Josh and Sam, who has recovered from the illness that ruled him out of the Nationals, now turn their attentions to a trip to Kazan in Russia this weekend where they will represent Ireland at the 2018 European Men’s and Women’s Team Championships.
Rachael will compete in the singles and alongside her aunt Chloe Magee in the doubles during what will be a testing tournament against Ukraine, Germany and Lithuania, while Josh, Sam and the other Irish men will have to overcome top seeds Denmark if they are to progress to the latter stages of the tournament.