Scotland ready for Sudirman Cup challenge

Scotland’s top players leave for Australia tonight to compete in the Sudirman Cup world mixed team championships in Gold Coast.

Kieran Merrilees, Kirsty Gilmour and Martin Campbell are the three survivors from the Scotland team that was unbeaten in finishing top of Group 2 at the 2013 Cup in Kuala Lumpur after defeating Russia, USA, Sweden and the Netherlands to leave the Scots a highly creditable 13th overall.

They are joined by Adam Hall, Patrick MacHugh, Rebekka Findlay, Julie MacPherson and Eleanor O’Donnell. O’Donnell will be making her senior Scottish debut just weeks after winning a silver medal in mixed doubles at the European Junior Under 19 Championships in the French city of Mulhouse.

But Scotland, the only Home Nation competing following England’s withdrawal, will face a tough test in Gold Coast when they take on Canada, New Zealand and Vietnam in their Group 2 matches, starting on Sunday.

The eight players, all of them past or present Scottish National champions, will be led by head coach Tat Meng Wong.

Merrilees, the most experienced member of the squad with 38 caps, said: “We are going to have some difficult games. We start with Canada, who have Michelle Li, the Commonwealth champion who beat Kirsty. I am sure Kirsty will want revenge for that.

“I’m sure New Zealand will be pretty strong and Vietnam have good quality players led by former world bronze medallist Nguyen Tien Minh. That’s going to be a difficult game for me but I am looking forward to it.

“It’s a great experience to represent Scotland in these big competitions against some of the best countries in the world. I am one of the more experienced members of the team so I am looking forward to helping the younger players in the squad.”

Hall said: I'm really looking forward to the Sudirman Cup in Gold Coast. I have great memories of watching the Sudirman Cup when it was back in Glasgow in 2007 so to get the opportunity to play in it is very exciting.

“We have quite a young team but we will be going out to win every match and give 100 per cent to win for Scotland.”

O’Donnell, the youngest member of the squad at 18, said: “I can’t wait to get there. I’ve obviously played junior events for Scotland but this is my first senior cap and in such a big event as the Sudirman Cup. It’s going to be amazing.”

She and Julie MacPherson won their first Yonex Scottish National senior title in Perth in February and she added: “I think I will be playing women’s doubles and it’s going to be such a great experience for me and Julie as we are both quite young. It’s such a big arena and such a great event so it will be good.”

Anne Smillie, Chief Executive of BADMINTONscotland, said: “We know we face tough opposition but the experience will be invaluable for our players, especially as the Commonwealth Games next year will be staged in the same arena.”

The Sudirman Cup runs from May 21-28 with 10-times champions China starting as strong favourites. Korea, with three wins, and Indonesia, with one, are the only other Cup winners. Denmark, whose men’s team who last year brought the Thomas Cup back to Europe for the first time, will be bidding to end the Asian stranglehold on the Sudirman Cup.

Scotland squad:

Kieran Merrilees (Glasgow, 38 caps, Age 27)
Martin Campbell (Edinburgh, 23 caps, Age 26)
Patrick MacHugh (Kinross, 12 caps, Age 24)
Adam Hall (Mauchline, 6 caps, Age 20)

Kirsty Gilmour (Bothwell, 26 caps, Age 23)
Rebekka Findlay (Erskine, 9 caps, Age 22)
Julie MacPherson (Edinburgh, 3 caps, Age 19)
Eleanor O’Donnell (Beith, 0 caps, Age 18)

Coach: Tat Meng Wong

Group 2A Schedule:
Sunday, May 21 (12 noon):  Scotland v Canada, Vietnam v New Zealand
Tuesday, May 23 (12 noon): Scotland v New Zealand, Vietnam v Canada
Wednesday, May 24 (6pm): Canada v New Zealand (12 noon), Scotland v Vietnam
Group 2 Positional play-off (against a team from 2B)
Friday, May 26 (6pm): Scotland v Australia, Singapore, USA or Austria