SAM and Chloe Magee have endured a frustrating nine day period that has seen them trapped in mainland Europe, narrowly defeated in both the German Open and the All-England Championships and the former has called time on his international men’s doubles career.
The Raphoe siblings adventure began on Tuesday of last week when they travelled for a German League match, with the intention of coming home to Dublin the following day before catching a flight back on Friday for the weekend’s Yonex German Open.
However, their best laid plans were soon left in tatters by the ‘Beast from the East’, as the Siberian weather caused their flight on Wednesday to be cancelled, leading to much needed support from the event sponsors.
“Because we hadn’t planned on staying in Germany for that long, we didn’t have our playing kit with us, but thankfully the tournament sponsor, Yonex were able to kit us out,” explained a relieved Sam.
“Our preparations weren’t really what we were hoping for, but we didn’t let us effect us.”
In Germany, Sam had been invited to partner home favourite Raphael Beck, who was retiring from international competition after one last hurrah in front of his adoring fans, in the men’s doubles event.
Having never played together before and with no aspirations other than entertaining the large crowd, the pair managed to reach the last-16. They defeated England’s world number 37 pairing of Peter Briggs and Tom Wolfenden (19-21 21-18 17-21) before bowing out to Indonesian seventh seeds Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto (21-14 21-17) in what Sam then decided would be his last ever international men’s doubles match too, as he intends on focusing on the mixed and qualification for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Prior to that thoroughly productive and enjoyable departure, Sam and Chloe took to the court for their mixed competition, which was to end in bitter disappointment.
They produced an excellent but ultimately frustrating performance against world number 10 pair, Xdgoh Soon Hait and Shevon Jemie Lai of Malaysia (21-15 17-21 21-17).
“That match just summed up a frustrating week,” observed Sam. “We were leading 13-7 in the third set and we knew all we had to do was see the game out. It’s like you were leading 4-2 in a football match, you know you’ve won, you just have to see it out.
“But they got a couple of points and we were waiting for them to make a mistake, but they didn’t make any mistakes. We became too tentative, we became passive, and it felt like a punch in the stomach to lose.”
That defeat, Sam hoped, would teach them a lesson ahead of this week’s All-England Championships, which started in Birmingham yesterday (Wednesday) when the Raphoe duo faced Olympic silver medalists, Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon and Liu Ying Goh in the opening round in Birmingham.
Prior to the match, Sam was aware they faced a tough task to progress and so it proved as they fell to an agonising three game defeat (18-21, 22-24, 15-21) in a match they came so close to winning.
That result left the Magees feeling similarly to their defeat in Germany, with Sam saying they were ‘absolutely gutted’ and that it was ‘a tough pill to swallow’, but he acknowledged that they ‘really did play well’ and ‘will take confidence’ from their performance.
Elsewhere, at the Portuguese International over the weekend, Sam and Chloe’s niece, Commonwealth Games-bound Rachael Darragh enjoyed some success in the mixed doubles.
Partnered by Paul Reynolds, they reached the quarter-finals after beating Peter Kaesbauer and Olga Konon ( 21-16 21-13) and England’s Max Flynn and Evie Burbidge (24-22 21-12 21-18) before losing out to Marcus Lõo and Helina Rüütel in the last eight. In the ladies singles, Rachael lost to Kuo Yen Chi (21-15 21-15).
Once Rachael returns from the Commonwealth Games in April, she, Chloe and Sam will travel to Spain, where they will compete in the European Championships.
Meanwhile, another member of the Magee family, Kyle, enjoyed a productive weekend, winning a silver medal alongside Rebecca Woods in the mixed doubles at the Irish National Under-19 Championships.