Graham Henderson and Mark Topping are the pair to beat in the Men’s Doubles 40+ class of the Roadside Motors Lisburn Ulster Masters this weekend at the National Badminton Centre.
Having lifted the Irish Masters this season former internationals Graham and Mark should progress through the group stage.
Chris and Gordon Chambers, Seamus Halpin and Paul McCooey and Mark McGrath and Serge Rutten will be ready to take advantage of any slip-ups, while No2 seeds Michael Turkington and Michael Watt, who failed to get out of their group in the Irish tournament, know what they have to do this time round and they now will know that they have to negotiate the group stage first, with Brian Dignam/ Stephen Galway and Karl Crawford and Andrew Fenner seeking to upset the seedings.
Former Alpha international Topping, now playing and coaching in Dublin, lifted five national doubles titles with his brother Bruce from 2000 to 2005, is also the top seed in the Mixed Doubles 40+ partnering Dorothy McCullough, and they will have their work cut out in the group stage facing Michael Turkington and Jayne Orr in their opening match.
Seamus Halpin and Karen Ballantine will be keen to book a place in the semi-final.
In the other group Willie Stevenson and Sylvia Campion are seeded No2 and they will be hoping to avenge the 28-26 21-17 defeat in the Irish Masters last month by Topping and McCullough.
Former international Brian McKee, who lifted a bronze medal in the World Masters in Sweden, must see off Israel Abernethy if he is to come out on top of the Men’s Singles 60+ class and he will be partnering Edenderry’s Joe Abbott in the men’s doubles with their first match against Kevin McGrath and Derek Murtagh.
In the women’s Doubles 55+ Doreen McClements and Christine Graham begin their challenge for the title against Lorna Beattie and Linda Maguire and follow this up with a clash against Jean Denihan and Cheryl Evans.
With tournament organiser William Martin delighted to have players from all four provinces competing, he is delighted that Tony Clarke will be seeking to add to his Irish title in the 70+ category, although that may mean overcoming his doubles partner Jim Morgan.