The UL Women out-fought their male rivals at the recent 40x20 Singles Intervarsities which took place in the wild tundra of Kingscourt, Co. Cavan. UL had high hopes of securing several titles as they travelled with the largest squad of the colleges in attendance. After numerous gruelling and exhilarating games of handball, UL Women secured two titles whereas the UL Men had to be content with a silver medal and four semi-final finishes.
Ciana Ní Churraoin returned seeking to defend her Women’s Open title, which she won for the first time last year. She appeared in imperious form in the early rounds over the weekend as she easily brushed aside her opponents. Her precise defensive shots forced her opponents into several mistakes which she pounced on to secure three facile victories to reach the final. She faced Ciara Mahon from Trinity, her opponent for the last 10 Open finals across all Intervarsities. It appeared that her previous encounters gave Ní Churraoin the knowledge on how to defeat Mahon as she rapidly built up a sizeable lead and refused to allow Mahon build any momentum to attempt a comeback. Ní Churraoin thus secured her second Women’s Open title in a row 21-3, 21-9. Niamh Dunne suffered an early set-back in the tournament as she was knocked out of the Open division and dropped to the A division. She re-grouped and used her immense power to subdue her opponents and quickly progressed to the A final. Here she faced her former teammate from UL, now representing UCD, Clodagh Nash. Nash resorted to using several lob shots in an attempt to neutralise Dunne’s power, which lead to a tense final. Dunne fell behind early as she attempted to adapt to her opponent’s tactics before mounting a late comeback to take the first game. She maintained this momentum into the second game before appearing to falter with the title almost in her grasp. Nash rapidly closed the gap before Dunne produced 3 astonishing kill shots to secure the Women’s A title. Natasha Coughlan and Mary Buggy secured close victories to reach the A quarter-finals before losing to tough opposition.
UL had high hopes of securing the Men’s Open title with 3 of the top 4 ranked players hailing from the Wolves club. Daniel Relihan produced some exhilarating handball in a tight quarter-final win over AIT’s Niall O’Connor to set-up a semi-final with the five-in-a-row seeking Martin Mulkerrins (UCD). Unfortunately, Relihan was unable to produce the same level of handball and was defeated in two games. Colin Crehan cruised into the semi-finals where he faced fellow club-mate Michael Hedigan, who had a titanic struggle with another UL player Colin Corbett before prevailing 11-8 in a tiebreaker. Hedigan appeared to be struggling with fatigue in the semi-final and Crehan progressed to his first Open final with a two-game victory. Crehan's finesse was in stark contrast to Mulkerrins' power in the final, with both players producing a series of astonishing shots to produce an exciting spectacle. Crehan was ultimately unable to deal with his opponent’s power and fell narrowly in two straight games 21-18, 21-17. Liam Bradshaw was also in impressive form in the B division before fatigue and injury forced him to succumb to Ben Devlin (DCU) in the semi-final. Devlin had earlier overcome Gordon Nolan in the quarter-final who was unable to produce his best form over the weekend. John Bosco Hurley similarly did not perform to his best in a last 16 defeat in the B division. Cathal McNamee battled his way to the semi-final of the C division before losing to the stylish Ryan Traenor (DCU). Dairmaid Meagher’s lack of experience in the 40x20 alley resulted in a last 16 defeat in the Contender division in his first tournament in the small alley.
It was a successful tournament for UL’s Wolverines with encouraging signs that the Wolves can compete at various levels and will gain experience from their narrow losses as they advance to championship and into Intervarsities next year