Badminton’s rising star John join’s Leitrim’s International ranks
Leitrim’s ability to produce sports people at the highest level has come to the fore again with the news that Aughavas teenager John Finnegan will make his Irish badminton international debut next weekend in Barcelona
At the highest level Badminton is one of the most physically and technically demanding sports you can play. It’s a sport that once had clubs playing all over the county of Leitrim and even though the number of clubs playing the game has declined, Leitrim has managed to produce a new Irish international player of 16 year old John Finnegan from Aughavas.
John is a pupil of Carrigallen Vocational School and member of Ballinamore Badminton club and is due to win his first international cap after being selected as one of five boys to represent Ireland in Barcelona at the Catalunia Under 19 Open Championships next Saturday and Sunday, February 16 & 17.
John’s achievement is all the more remarkable considering that Ireland only play one international competition per year at this age group and the national team is selected from all of the 32 counties. Unlike Ulster, Leinster and Munster, where badminton is a major indoor sport, it is very much a minority sport in Connacht, particularly in Leitrim.
The Leitrim Badminton Association has begun to try and promote the game once more. At present there are clubs in Carrick-on-Shannon, Drumshanbo, Mohill, Ballinamore, Newtowngore and Templeport, all still playing badminton, and to date, John has played at four of them.
John’s father and coach, Michael, acknowledges that without the dedication of those who keep badminton alive in this part of the country John would not have been given the chance to take up the sport.
John began playing badminton for Carrigallen Pioneer club with Noel Lee where he had his first taste of competition. He fell in love with the game and when Carrigallen’s club stopped playing he moved to Newtowngore Club and won his first Connacht cap as a Newtowngore player. For the last four years,he has been given the chance to play for Ballinamore Badminton club. Ballinamore played host to the Connacht championships last year and with the largest juvenile membership in the county it will be the venue for the Leitrim championships in March.
In September 2011, in an effort to try and make it onto the Irish Under 17 squad, John began entering open provincial competitions. This was the beginning of an ever increasing training and commitment.
At first it was difficult to come to terms with the level of the opposition revealed John - “Open competitions are always a straight knock-out and for the first six months I was almost always beaten in the first round so it was hard to keep positive but it’s the players who are better than you that you can learn the most from.”
Things began to take a turn at the start of the 2011/12 season when John won the plate final in Sligo Open Under 17s singles. He followed this up with his first win in adult badminton when he and his partner took the Sligo Intermediate C Open doubles. This was quickly followed with a runner’s up spot in the Connacht Junior B doubles and a Connacht title with his sister Clare in the Junior B mixed doubles.
John trained all through the summer of 2012 and at the start of the 2012/13 season also became a member of the Sligo badminton club. He then began to travel twice a week, to play against some of the top Senior club players in the country as well as competing every weekend. As a result in October 2012 he was called up to trials for the National team. After a nervous few weeks of waiting he was named in the squad to train once a month in Dublin for Barcelona.
By Christmas 2012 John had managed to get himself ranked in the top 25 senior singles players in Ireland and in January 2013, he was named on the team to play in Barcelona.
“I couldn’t believe it, I kept thinking that there are so many brilliant players out there and they must have forgotten to include someone,” said John but the Aughavas player dispelled any doubts about his inclusion in the team at the end of January when he defeated two of his national team mates on route to winning the singles plate at the Leinster Under 17 open.
It has been a long journey for John to get this far and he would like to acknowledge the support of the Leitrim Badminton Association and all those who have encouraged, helped and supported him on this journey, in particular those who turn up week after week to help keep clubs going and to coach the juveniles. ‘I play and train for eleven months of the year so badminton has become a way of life for me and I love it. I don’t know what I would do if there was nowhere to play.’
John has represented himself, and Leitrim, in Lisburn, Limerick, Dublin, Galway and Sligo on numerous occasions and by the end of February he can also include representing Ireland in Barcelona on his list. With badminton clubs training and playing in Carrick-on-Shannon, Drumshanbo, Mohill, Ballinamore, Newtowngore and Templeport, hopefully Leitrim will not have too long to wait until someone else follows in John’s footsteps.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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