By Euan Murray (RDO West)
On Sunday, around 40 players ranging from 10 to 17 years old travelled to Atlantis Leisure Centre in Oban for the first ever Argyll Junior League Singles Event. Players travelled from across Argyll & Bute including Oban, Bute, Cowal, Mull, Campbeltown and also Glasgow. There was a total of 14 girls and 32 boys, with a couple of withdrawals from Barra due to issues with the ferry. Initial discussions took place last year between a group of committed volunteers across a network of clubs in the Argyll & Bute area and there was an appetite to provide more local competition opportunities for junior players catering for a variety of ages and abilities. Based on the successful Glasgow Junior League model, the group agreed to trial an Argyll Junior League Singles Event with the support of Glasgow & North Strathclyde (G&NS) Badminton Group and Badminton Scotland.
The format for the day included players being split into 6 divisions, involving qualification round robins into playoffs with aim of guaranteeing lots of fun and game time. With the varying levels of participants, there were different rules in place for each pool including Division 1 & 2 playing 1 set to 21 over a full court; Division 3/4 playing full court, 1 set to 15 and Division 5/6 playing half court, 1 set to 11 points.
In Division 1, it was always going to be fast and furious affair in this pool with players fully testing each other with lots of long rallies and attacking play. Coming out of the group stage, Joris Hutton was in the lead with 5 out of 5 wins who had close battle with Euan Dods winning 21-20. Innes MacCallum secured second place in the group with 4 wins, being pushed all the way by Morgan Gemmell however MacCallum edging it 21-20 in their encounter. David Simpson and Alfie Close continued to demonstrate how evenly matched this pool was with Simpson pipping Close 21-20. In the playoffs, despite there being some tight matches it was Hutton and MacCallum who progressed to the final, with Hutton victorious in the only 3 setter of the day (15-8, 11-15, 15-9).
Within Division 2, there were 6 players competing with some very close matches. Maoyan Li managed to navigate his way through the group winning all five matches in the qualification round robin. He was closely followed by George Pagan and Finn Turnbull. The closest tie took place between Ben Western & Gabriel Kardasz with Western nicking the win 21-20. Alexander Malloch had some impressive performances narrowly losing 21-17, 21-17, 21-19 in three of his matches and unlucky not pick up the wins in these particular games. As it appeared from the group standings, once again Li and Pagan would meet in the Final with Li taking the top spot with a 15-8 win.
In this division there were three groups (A/B/C) with 5 players in each pool, which kept Neil Hutton the volunteer of this division busy! In Group A, it was Hamish Caskie and Murray Mackay who were closely matched. Mackay won the head to head tie 15-14 against Caskie, however despite this Caskie topped the group (both players had 59 points total) as he had conceded overall two less points than Mackay. Even more intriguingly Ruaridh Newiss finished 3rd place with same number of wins (3 out 4) as Caskie & Mackay although scoring one less point with 58 points in total.
Sophie Hetherington and Ettie Fisher gave it their best and pushed their competitors all the way in the group with some really close matches. This was a clear indication of how closely matched the players in this group were and credit to their effort & determination. And this was apparent in Group B too.
Atharv Sharma managed to pull away into the lead and advance to the playoffs with 4 out of 4 wins. It was close contest between Grace-Anne Whittaker, Ryan Campbell and Leon Mullholland. They all managed to win 2 matches each with the narrow points difference separating the players. Sophie O’Connell was unlucky not pick up the win against Leon Mullholland who edged it 15-14. Similarly, Group C had some tight matches also. Ruaridh MacKechnie secured his place into the play-offs with a series of wins in the group stage with Millar Mackay, brother of Murray Mackay pushing MacKechnie all the way. Zoe Turnbull, Lewis Binnie and Lola Tiernan all putting in admirable performances to make it an interesting finish in this group. In the playoff round, Caskie and Newiss continued their impressive runs reaching the finals and overcoming their opponents to be winners of the Division 3 and 4 categories respectively.
In this division, it is clear that there are some potential badminton stars of the future with many enjoying what was there first experience of competition. There was Qualification A & B pools, with the youngsters competing on a half-court – having to ensure their shots were played with accuracy within the smaller court boundaries. In Pool A, it was a close contest between Fraser McGregor and Sami Macary who were level on points despite MacGregor beating Macary 11-8.
Callan MacQueen was involved in three 11-10 matches – winning 2 out of 3 of these cementing his 3rd place position and was closely matched by Kyle McCormack who managed to beat pool winner McGregor. For Pool B, it was a clean sweep for Lewis MacQueen. Participants then progressed to the play-offs which were up to 15 points and now across a full court. You could see the players enjoying the chance to hit into a bigger space and being able to play a wider variety of shots. It was Lewis McQueen and Kyle McCormack who won Divisions 5 and Division 6 play-offs respectively.
Robin Towart, of Cowal Badminton Association, who was involved in the run up to the event and helped manage Division 1 pool on the day said: ‘‘It was a great turnout, good competition all round and some very close games. Hopefully this will lead to more events in the Argyll & Bute area’’.
Josh Li, a parent volunteer for Division 2 whose son Maoyan Li of Scotstoun Badminton Club travelled from Glasgow to participate stated:
‘’The environment and atmosphere was very nice, a real positive sense of community and a good mix of male and female participants. Polite kids, well-mannered and the facility is very high quality. We have enjoyed travelling up for the day and definitely keen be involved in attending and supporting future events’’
Neil Hutton, who helped collect entries and supported with arranging pools – a volunteer from Dervaig Community Badminton Club in Mull:
‘‘Tremendous turnout from all corners of Argyll & Bute and beyond. Congratulations to all the youngsters who have all played their hearts out today. Also a mention for all the parents and coaches, determined to overcome our challenging geography to support our young players and the game. And thanks also to our RDO, Euan, for being the catalyst, bringing everyone together to get this event off the ground, the first, we hope, of many’’
Ryan McCuaig, who led on running event on Tournament Software involving setting up draw and scheduling matches stated:
“It was fantastic to be able to help deliver the first junior open event in Argyll & Bute in my life time. This is a valuable addition to the junior event program for not just players within the county but for wider junior community. The future is bright for junior badminton in Argyll & Bute. The feedback already received shows there is demand for these style of events, so keep an eye out for more opportunities for come to region’’.
Sarah Sidebottom, who is a current member of the Scottish Senior National Squad and coach at the Bute Badminton Club, managed Division 5/6 said:
‘’The event was brilliant! I know my kids from Bute were really excited to travel off the island to play and meet other kids. I think this is a great event and opportunity for the kids of Argyll and Bute and hope it’s the start of many. The Rothesay kids are already asking when the next one is! Big thanks to all who were apart of organising the event.’’
A big thank you goes to the team of volunteers who have been pivotal in the lead up and on the day of the event. This includes Ryan McCuaig (Oban Badminton Club), Neil Hutton (Dervaig Community Badminton Club), Anne Littleson (Highland Parish Badminton Club), Robin Towart (Cowal Badminton Association), Stephen Wilson (Oban Badminton Club), Sarah Sidebottom (Bute Badminton Club), John Craig (Glasgow & North Strathclyde Badminton Group) and Denise Gemmell (Oban High School). Also a thank you to the venue staff at Atlantis Leisure Centre in Oban.
We hope everyone enjoyed taking part in the event, it was great to see such a fantastic turnout and lots of competitive matches with players all displaying good etiquette and sportsmanship throughout the course of the day. The group are hoping to organise future events, so keep an eye on the Glasgow and North Strathclyde Badminton Group website here.
To view the full results from the event, click here.