17-21 English County Challenge Roundup

  • By IOMBA
  • May 16, 2024

The Isle of Man recently competed in the 17-21 English County Challenge in at the Railway Institute in York.  The team comprised of 4 men and 4 women, Benjy Li, Sam Skelcher-Maxwell, Juan Domingo, Arthur Young, Mia Kirk, Leah Brennan, Annelise Mellor and Kitty Thomas.

The competition comprised of 10 counties, many of whom are the strongest badminton counties in England so the island always knew this would be a tough competition.  The initial matches were split into 2 groups of 5 counties.  The Isle of Man was drawn in Group B playing against Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Avon and Worcestershire.

The Isle of Man’s first match was against Berkshire with Sam and Kitty playing singles.  This was always going to be a difficult singles for Sam playing against a strong C graded singles player, which he lost out to in two games.  Kitty however took a very comfortable win in the over her opponent, clinching our first win of the day, resulting in the IOM going into the mens and womens doubles 1-1. Juan and Arthur (a new partnership) again had tough opposition with C/D graded players which we lost in 2.  However Mia and Leah took a strong win in 2 games in the womens doubles, leaving us 2-2 going into the two mixed matches.  Unfortunately the 1st mixed pairing from Berkshire were too strong for Benjy and Mia, losing out in two games.  At  2nd mixed it was a tense match for Arthur and Annelise, who fought hard only losing in a tight match 21-19, 24-22.  The island were so close to a draw against a strong county, and unfortunately the scenario of just missing out on tight matches followed us for the rest of the weekend.  The final score was 4-2 in Berkshire’s favour.

Our next match was against Hertfordshire.  Juan and Annelise were first on court playing singles.  Similarly to Sam’s singles, Juan was playing against a tough opponent, D graded Charlie Windebank, losing  11 and 14. Annelise had some of the closest matches of the weekend and fought back having lost the opening game 22-20 to win the second 21-13 and narrowly lost out 21-18 in the third.  The mens doubles of Benjy and Sam were also unlucky just losing out in the setting of the second game 23-21.  Mia and Leah continued their strong form winning 8 and 12 in the womens doubles,  We again went into the mixed 2-2.  At 1st mixed Benjy and Mia took the opening game but unfortunately couldn’t hold off the opposition losing in 3.  Arthur and Kitty played at 2nd mixed losing out in 2 games, with the final score again ending at 4-2 against the island.

The third match of the day (this was our third continuous match with the first three being played at 9.30a 11.30am and 1.30pm)  was against Avon which we knew would be the strongest county in our group. Sam played his second singles of the day and continued our lack of luck only narrowly losing the second game 22-20 in the setting against C graded Benjamin Kemp, a great match by Sam.  Leah had a strong win in her singles beating Georgia Creed in two straight games 21-17, 21-15.  Unfortunately Avon proved too strong for the island with Juan and Arthur and Annelise and Kitty losing their doubles matches in 2 games. It was always going to be a tall order to take either of the mixed but both pairings of Sam and Mia, losing 19 and 16, and Arthur and Kitty, losing 17 and 17, fought hard.  The final score was 5-1 to Avon.

Even though the island had yet to pick up an overall win we started our final match of the day optimistic that we could pull off a win against Worcestershire .  Unfortunately, Sam was again extremely unlucky losing the second game of his singles in the setting 23-21, a hard battled match.  Annelise faced C graded Dorsa Yavarivafa (who is attempting to qualify for the Olympics in the refugee status) in the singles, and again battled hard but lost out in 2 games.  Juan and Benjy gave us our first mens doubles win, beating the Worcestershire pair 21-11, 21-14.  Mia and Leah played strong and took a convincing win in the womens doubles, winning 13 and 12.  We were again going into the mixed 2-2.  Sam and Mia fought hard at 1st mixed but the opposition were too strong losing out in 2 games.  At 2nd mixed Arthur and Kitty pulled off one of the most convincing wins for the island, winning 21-12, 21-2.  This gave us an overall 3-3 draw, and on countback a winning draw.

Although this was a great way to finish the first day, unfortunately as Worcestershire had managed a winning draw against Berkshire the Isle of Man were to play off for 9th and 10th positions on the Sunday morning.

The final match on the Sunday was against Lancashire.  Juan played mens singles losing out in two games 21-16, 21-14.  Kitty gave us a boost winning in straight games against fellow Manxie, Abigayil Mellor who was representing Lancashire as she is attending Lancaster University.  It was great to take a game that went to setting, with Benjy and Sam winning a well fought mens doubles in a nail biting three games, 25-23, 19-21, 21-18, which meant we were 2-1 up.  Although Leah and Annelise got off to a slow start losing the first game they game back strong in the second game winning 21-8.  Unfortunately they just lost out in the third game 21-17 meaning that we were once again going into the mixed 2-2.  Sam and Mia got off to a great start at 1st mixed winning the first game but lost out in 3.  It was all down to 2nd mixed and what a tense final match it was.  Arthur and Annelise lost out 21-17 in the first game but brought it back winning the second 25-23!  We had calculated that provided we won the final game it would be a winning draw on points.  It was a cliffhanger of a game and although Arthur and Annelise showed true grit and determination they lost out 26-24 in the final game.  This gave an overall loss of 4-2.

We know the players were disappointed, especially in the last match against Lancashire, but they were a credit to the Isle of Man and gave their all, with the last three matches on Sunday all going to three but unfortunately with the island losing out in each one.  Looking back on the weekend we could have quite easily have attained draws in our first two matches against Berkshire and Hertfordshire, losing out in some very close matches.  There were some excellent performances over the weekend with all the players playing well.  We would like to thank Capital International Group who were our kit sponsors and the Isle of Man Steam Packet for their travel assistance, along with Matthew Nicolson and Nicola Watson who accompanied the team.