Two members of Touraneena Racqetball Club in West Waterford were part of the 17-strong Irish team that returned from the World Junior Championships in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic recently after achieving a fantastic fifth-place finish.
Conor Skehan and Eoin Kearns, both 15, had previously represented their country in the same competition in Arizona three years ago. Conor won his club’s player of the year award for 2009 and took his first Junior Singles All-Ireland title shortly before the trip to South America.
Drawn against opponents from the host country and Canada in the group stages, Conor was slow to settle in his opening match against Junior Rodriguez from the host nation, but the St Augustine’s College student rallied and took the spoils 2-1, before being beaten by the extremely strong Anthony Schonberger from Canada in his second game.
One win, however, was enough to see him into the knockout stages where he was paired with Manolo Sandoval from Guatemala. Conor put in a fine performance to triumph 15-7, 15-8, but in the last 16 Pablo Sauna from racquetball power Costa Rica proved a step too far.
Roberto Leyes from Venezuela was Eoin’s first opponent and the Dungarvan CBS student overcame the Venezuelan’s challenge, winning a hard-fought contest 2-0. Sami Harb was his next opponent and the Canadian just edged a thrilling 2-1 battle
However, Eoin also made the knockout stages, where he beat Edwin Galicia from Guatemala 15-10, 15-9, and then made Costa Rican Andreas Acu fight tooth and nail for a 2-1 victory.
The Touraneena duo combined for Ireland in the doubles, beating opponents from Honduras and Ecuador to reach the last eight, practically without breaking sweat.
The Deise boys were now up against Javier Estrada and Eduardo Garey from Mexico, two young men with the racquetball world at their feet. The former St Mary’s Touraneena NS pupils pushed the Aztecs to their limit before bowing out 2-1 – their heroics having pushed Ireland into the world’s top five.