McMahon is Ulster Champ
Tuesday, 29 October 2013
ROSTREVOR teen tennis sensation Ardghal MacMahon has put his town on the tennis map by winning the Ulster U16 Junior Masters Race.
This is the first time anyone from the Newry and Mourne area has won this title and to put the difficulty of winning this competition in perspective, Ardghal was up against players mainly from the Belfast area who have access to state of the art facilities and coaching programmes that are unavailable in this locality.
The way the Ulster Tennis Points (UTP) Masters Race works, players accumulate points according to their tournament results throughout the year. The top eight in Ulster form two groups for a play-off, the top two from each group go on to a semi-final and then the final. Ardghal won his group, his semi-final and the 2013 final saw MacMahon beat Leon Gibson to take the title.
MacMahon has been a familiar face on the local tennis circuit for many years despite being only 16-years-old.
He is a regular winner and has more silverware to his name than he could fit in the car for this photo. This year alone in the local tournaments he beat his brother Eoghan to win the Rostrevor Junior tournament, the fantastic young talent Tom Harty to take the Newry Junior Open title and the brilliant Tim Smith who has long been one of the top seeds in Newry, to win the Rostrevor Senior tournament.
His whole family are tennis enthusiasts and he credits his brother Eoghan for much of his success as he has been a big influence on his younger brother and has been his sparring partner since they were young.
Ardghal has been steadily creeping up the UTP ranking since he began playing tournaments.
“At U12 I was ranked 33rd and I've moved up every year since then, so I hope that I make it to number one," said McMahon.
Currently he is ranked sixth in Ulster but this win will have moved him ever closer to that coveted top spot.
To get to that level however is no easy task.
“It's tough staying at the top and keeping up with the boys from Belfast," he said.
The Abbey Grammar School student who has started studying for his A levels this year is committed to tennis and, as with his schoolwork, is willing to put the effort in that it takes to succeed.
McMahon was coached for much of his youth by Jim Pringle in Rostrevor Tennis Club in Kilbroney Park.
He has however outgrown the local competition and now spends eight hours a week travelling two days to train in Lisburn and three days to train in Dundalk where the standard of players is stronger.
“Dundalk has a lot of good players, some of them come up from Dublin and even down from Bangor. Dublin has the best players in the country definitely, so they are the ones to beat ultimately," he said.
Indoor courts are non-existent in Newry and Mourne - another example of the difficulties young tennis players face if they wish to
improve their game and compete against the best in Ulster.
Next up for Ardghal, who moves up to U18 this month - the start of the new tennis year - is the Ulster Indoor Tournament, a big competition played on carpet in David Lloyd Club, Belfast this week.
“I'm seeded third in this tournament which is higher than my ranking, just because I've been playing well lately I think. I'm scheduled to meet the number one seed in the second round, so that will be a cut above the rest if I do get to play him," said MacMahon.
Whatever happens in that one there's no doubt that Ardghal MacMahon will keep moving in the right direction because not only is he a wonderful talent but he also has an all-important ingredient for success - a genuine love of tennis.
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