The 2022 beach challenge event was held at the weekend under near perfect conditions at Bettystown Beach.
The best youth players from Northern Ireland and Ireland gathered to once again compete for titles but ultimately help drive the standards of all youth teams to the next level.
Four pools, two boys and two girls all got underway by 10.30, Saturday morning.
Girls’ Pool A featured Ireland’s pairing of Creighton /McNichols . The team recently returned the CEV senior small countries tournament back in June and that valuable experience seemed to drive them on as they worked their way through the group to secure a semi final spot without dropping a set. Also competing for Ireland in Pool A was new team Dara/Browne. Their first competition together proved a successful learning curve as they ran both Northern Ireland teams close losing the final sets just 21-18, 22-20 to Mooney/Clarke and Cuthbert/Finch. Mooney/Clarke then overcame their fellow NIR pairing to grab that precious 2nd spot and a place in the semi finals.
Girls Pool B consisted of the 2021 champions Moloney/Connolly. After winning a set against Northern Ireland’s Allen/Kincaid 29-27 in their first game, they soon settled into their stride and went on to seal top spot and yet another semi final fixture this time against NIR’s Mooney/Clarke. Northern Ireland’s Allen/Kincaid also overcame Ireland’s Haverty/Pol & Sweeney/Phelan to set up an intriguing semi final against Creighton/McNichols.
Boys Pool C played out by far and away the tightest group of the day. Three set matches in all games proved how close the teams were on performance level but also provided spectators with some scintillating beach volleyball. In the end the NIR pair of Kincaid/Reilly topped the group but not before having to work hard for that spot as NIR’s Flemming/Laird run them all the way in the final group match. The Ireland teams of Kelly/Wyley had to face off in yet another extremely close group match against Gilmartin/O’Riordáin. At stake was that last semi final spot. Scores of 17-21, 21-18, 16-14 meant that Kelly/Wyley were progressing onward.
The final pool, Boys D, had NIR top seeds of McMurray/Dally get their tournament underway against Ireland’s new pairing of Potapov/Uzun. As the new team started to learn each other’s style they continued to grow and develop throughout the day. Being in a group also with Ireland’s Humphreys/Davoren it was a tough day but very valuable learning experience for the youngest boys team in the tournament. The final Pool D game had all to play. The three set match went the way of McMurray/Dally over Humphreys/Davoren. 21-10, 21-23, 15-6
Our semi finals were now set. In the girls, Connolly/Moloney & Creighton/McNichols both produced some strong serving and fine teamwork to set up a final match.
Over in the boys McMurray/Dally eliminated Kelly/Reilly through some powerful spiking and clever play to progress into the final and second match of the day against Humphreys/Davoren. The Irish pair continued to demonstrate partnership growth as they overcame Kincaid/Reilly in their semi final.
Two hard fought finals resulted in wins for BOYS- McMurray/Dally & GIRLS Moloney/Connolly. Congratulations to the champions but also congratulations to all teams that competed in the event as the goal of Saturday is on developing our younger future stars through competitive high level games that we witnessed.
Next stop for both NIR and IRL teams is a trip to Cardiff on August 12th for the JCC 2022 tournament. The teams will once again potentially face other but also teams from Scotland, England and Wales.
Let’s finish with some words from our medallists.
Grace Moloney, gold medal winner 2022
“It was great to be competing again today against the
Northern Irish squads. The wind created some challenges for us but there was
still a very high level of intensity throughout the day. Laura and I were
delighted to make the final again this year and we had a very tough match
against Ellen and Lara. It was great to have another opportunity to develop my
partnership with Laura on the sand and we really enjoyed the day. Many thanks
to Gary, Conor and all of volleyball Ireland for organising another great
tournament on the beach!”
Ciagan Davoren, silver medal winner 2022
“I’m excited to be back on the beach again this summer. I’ve partnered with my indoor teammate Cian for this season. Up to now we have had to train separately due to Cian being in Poland so it was great to finally get together for our first event. As always Northern Ireland provided us with some great competition on the sand. Throughout the course of the day’s matches we found where our strengths as a team lie and also the areas we need to work on. The atmosphere was amazing. Team Ireland are a great bunch of players and personalities so it makes competitions like this fun environments to compete in. There are lots of events coming up over the next few months and we are very excited to see where the partnership takes us.”
Ellen Creighton, silver medal winner 2022
“I had a really enjoyable day and some very tough games with wind and strong teams. The young girls we were playing really put it up to us and made us work hard for a place in the final. It was great to have another rematch against Laura and Grace and a well deserved win for the two great girls. Looking forward to the next time!”