, Celtic Challenge 2024 Report by Joshua Hart, Badminton Wales

Celtic Challenge 2024 Report by Joshua Hart

On Friday the 23rd of February Wales sent a very young team comprising of 6 boys and 6 girls to the U14 Celtic challenge. The tournament is held annually, and this year was hosted in Dublin Ireland by Leinster Badminton.

Our young team was managed by Sharon Kite and team coach Josh Hart. From South Wales departed Sharon along with Anne, Ailsa, Sienna, Eden, Joel and Hashmi via plane, whilst the North Wales contingency consisting of Josh, Rocco, Luke, Aadi, Ileana, Samara and John made their way braving the Irish sea.

After arriving in Ireland, the team met at the hotel and headed to the restaurant for food before bed ready for a day of tough matches to come.

Day 1 commenced with the young Welsh squad facing home favourites Leinster. The match score ended with a tough 15-0 loss, however with several close games and nerves now fully settled the team headed into match number 2 against Ulster in high spirits. A good start from the team with some amazing support from the Welsh fan club meant that they got their first wins on the board. Luke and Eden managed to take the first game, with Jon and Aadi following suit to taking the second match. Joel and Rocco were up next and couldn’t quite make it 3 in 3 but we moved onto the girls doubles with A 2-1 lead.

The Ulster girls came out very strong and managed to win all of the doubles giving them a 4-2 lead moving into the boy’s singles. The boys took to court and returned the favour with Eden, Luke and Aadi making a clean sweep bring the score to 5-4.

Samara was first on court for the girls losing the first set but coming out in the second game as a completely different player, narrowly losing to 19. Sienna shared a similar story line, however showed her mental resilience and determination to get back after a tough 1st game to make her opponent worry in the second. Hashmi was up next with what she lacks in age she definitely did not lack in effort and determination during this game playing an opponent several years older and managing to get a very respectable score.

Mixed doubles were next with Ulster really putting the pressure on now leading 7-4 and the experience difference showed in these next few matches with ulster taking all 3 of the mixed making the final score 10-5. However, the spirit showed by Ileana, Joel, Rocco, john, Anne and Ailsa was nothing short of inspiring.

The day ended with a fantastic meal provided at the hall of PIZZAs galore I don’t think we have ever seen as much pizza.

Day 2

Day 2 began with the final match of the event against Lothian. The boy’s doubles got us underway again. Eden and Luke lost against a very smart and strong 1st seeded pair with John and Aadi following suit with a strong 1st game of 18 but unable to keep the momentum and losing the second. Sadly one of the Lothian players had an injury resulting in a. By the end of the boys doubles the score sat at 2-1 in Lothian’s favour. The girls were up next. Samara and Anne were first on stage and after playing some amazing badminton won the first set 21-17. The second set was were the real battle started with the Lothian girls stepping up their game taking the second set to a close 21-16. Samara and Anne gave everything in the 3rd set the fiery spirit of this duo however sadly was not enough today and the ulster girls took the 3rd 21- 18.

A newly formed pair combing north and south Wales of Ileana and Sienna were next up and gave a fantastic match with strong smashes from sienna and great net play from Ileana the duo gave their opponents a real shock however were unable to get the win losing out 21-17 and 21- 13. Hashmi and Ailsa followed sadly losing in straight sets however having improved drastically over the last 3 games played some great doubles with good serves from Hashmi and forecourt aggression from Ailsa.

Joel took to court to get the singles under way playing the no1 seed from Lothian. Much more comfortable on singles court the first game began with a back and forth up to 3-3 from here the Lothian Player managed to pull away taking the game in 2 straight sets. Joel played the best badminton of his tournament and did all that any coach can ever ask a player for ‘leave everything you have on the court and Joel did this.

The mini’s as aptly nicknamed by the team were the two youngest players of the Welsh team with a combined age of 15, John and Rocco took to the court for their first singles matches of the tournament. Both players gave a great account of themselves both showing great footwork and movement john playing some fantastic net shots with Rocco playing some amazing backhands and smashes. Sadly losing in straight sets to their older counter parts.

The girls were up next and samara took the first singles game in straight sets. Sienna and Hashmi were up next and after a strong account for themselves succumbed to the Lothian girls.

The mixed brought about some of the closest games of the entire tournament. The northern duo of Luke and Ileana took on the Lothian first seeds and played some fantastic mixed doubles with great net control from Ileana setting Luke up for some well-placed powerful smashes. The Lothian pair were still too strong taking the match 21-14 21-19. The pairs of Eden and Ailsa along with Aadi and Anne were up next with two of tensest matches of the entire tournament. Both pairs winning the first set and losing the second, leaving everything riding on the deciding 3rd set. Eden, Ailsa, Aadi and Anne all showed the amazing team atmosphere and grit this young Welsh team had created by securing both games 21-19 and 21-18 respectively bringing the matches to an end.

The presentation followed and the southern contingency rushed off to catch their flight narrowly making it.

The north Wales group was taken on an incredibly educational tour of Dublin by Josh before commencing their swim back to Wales.

Coaches Summary

This young team we have taken to Ireland have been nothing short of brilliant. Regardless of the on-court results or the overwhelming age and size differences each and every individual gave their all and supported each other every step of the way. We undoubtedly left all the other teams with a headache or two. I hope everyone who came and played had a brilliant time and takes a lot away from the experience both on and off the court.


I also want to take this time to thank the parents for the amazing chants and support throughout the weekend and the team manager Sharon but also Donal who without him this event couldn’t of happened. I think we also have to thank everyone at the Leinster branch and also those from Lothian and ulster for such a fantastic and welcoming weekend.

Finally my biggest thanks to all the kids you guys were exceptional see you soon!!

Joshua Hart

1600 1200 Badminton Wales
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