A Qualified Success
Mair and James Kelly took to the competitive stage at the Irish Senior Classification for the first time over the weekend. This is one of the toughest tournaments of the year and a curtain raiser for the new National Season. The event is held in two stages with the first day a qualifier for the second. The top 10 Irish Seniors qualify automatically for the main event with the rest of the field of hopefuls vying for the extra spaces.
James got off to a slow start losing his first match but soon recovered with a 3/0 win against Charlie Fitzgerald and great result for James and he went on to qualify for the second round. The standard of the event is high with no easy matches and he found himself in another tough group in the second round. An inform Alexander Gillan dutifully topped this group but with another excellent performance James disposed of Ryan McConkey (Snr No.16 & Jnr. No.5). With another win against Brian Devereux (Snr No.27) James made his way into the last 16. Up against David Sulkonski he once again played to his strengths and found himself one step away from a qualifying spot with a ¼ final against Dylan Grace. This was an extremely closely fought battle reaching the 5th set but Dylan who holds the balance of power between the two players once again pulled away in the last stretch to leave James with a tricky 5th/6th place battle against Darius Zatylyn. James showing no fear stormed his way to 5th place and a guaranteed place in Sunday’s main event.
Mair had a tough group in the first round of the ladies with Emma Ludlow and Kate Whelan both showing good form. Mair put up a good fight against eventual qualifier Emma Ludlow taking the second set and running Emma close in the other sets. Left hander Kate Whelan proved too strong on the day for Mair and she eventually finished third in her four player group and moved into the plate event. Here she topped her group with ease with comfortable wins against Erin Piper, Jessie Hayes and Emma McSorely. After a very tiring day with 9 matches under her belt she lost the semi-final to Orla Timlin.
The second day at UCD saw James in a group with Vlad, Zak Wilson and Alan Walsh. He played well but this is another step higher and he had to just settle for gaining valuable experience. He had a very good match in the second round against Sam Logue taking 2 sets after losing the first two and once again had to face Dylan Grace for the 13th/14th place play off. He was disappointed not to be able to raise his game enough but with two of the sets going to deuce in Dylan favour he had to settle for the 14th and the realisation that any of the top 16 senior places in Ireland are hard to come by and at just 15 years old he has plenty of time ahead of him and this season has only just begun.