For the first time in several years, Laois and Offaly badminton players are competing on an equal footing. In the early noughties, Offaly, had a slight edge, then the two counties were equal before Laois surged ahead in recent years.
This year Offaly finally caught up. Laois and Offaly were drawn in the same qualifying pool in the Leinster Intercounty U-17 Badminton competition played in the Baldoyle Badminton Centre, Dublin. ALaoiso in the pool were Kildare A and Wexford.
Offaly led off against Kildare A and Laois started against Wexford but despite their best efforts, both teams lost their opening matches.
Laois and Offaly came head to head in the second match. Matt Geogeghan, Laois, played Donal Grogan in a cliff-hanger. Sweat was rolling off both players long before the match was over. Matt held out for a 30/28 win.
Rachel Cass, Laois, was the dominate force in Girls Singles. She defeated Olive Kearney 30/13. James Coughlan and Mark Flaherty, brightened the scene for Offaly. They defeated Ethan Cox and Alex Whittle, 30/17. Emily White and Tara Phelan demonstrated Offaly girl power when they defeated Jennifer Cass and Hannah Kerron, Laois, 30/21. Success or failure depended on Donal Grogan and Olive Kearney, Offaly and Alex Whittle and Rachel Cass, Laois. The game was everything to be expected from a match decider, and the decision went to Laois. Rachel and Alex scored a last minute 30/28 win
Offaly’s final pool opponent was a strong Wexford team while Laois played Kildare A and despite both counties putting up strong efforts, both ultimately lost the matches.
The results from Pool A put Wexford into Division 1, which they won, beating Dublin in the Division 1 final . Kildare A went forward into Division 2. Louth, from Pool B, defeated them in the Division 2 final. Kildare B joined Laois and Offaly in Division 3.
Offaly’s first opponent was Kildare B and they won the match 3-2. Laois announced their intentions to become Division 3 Champions with a 5-0 win against Kildare B. With one match win apiece, the pool game between Laois and Offaly was no ordinary pool game, but a ‘winner-take-all’ final.
Both Offaly and Laois rearranged their team format for the final. Boys singles remained unchanged with Matt Geogeghan, Laois again meeting Donal Grogan, Offaly. The players may have been the same, but Donal changed his game style. He played a much flatter game preventing his opponent from using his killer smash as often. Donal was able to return more smashes in this game, and also got more smashes down on his opponent. Matt never gave up, smashing and clearing, trying to wear down his smaller opponent, and nearly succeded. Both boys walked off the court totally spent, but Donal was the happier—with a 30/26 win.
Emily White Offaly, met Rachel Cass, Laois, in the Girls Singles. If scores had to be counted, Rachel was a big help to Laois, winning 30/12. Matt Geogeghan played the doubles with Alex Whittle for Laois. This made a stronger partnership and they met a James Coughlan and Mark Flaherty, Offaly that weren’t as sharp as the first time around. However, James and Mark managed to hold on for the win 30/27.
Rachel Cass and Jennifer Cass, Laois, met Emily White and Olive Kearney, Offaly, in doubles. Again the Laois Girls held the upper hand with another 30/12 win.
The outcome for Offaly depended on Tara Phelan and Donal Grogan. Laois were relying on Hannah Kerron and Ethan Cox. The two pairs played what looked like a long and gruelling match, but when