Tony Stephenson, a member of the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Team in Glasgow, returned home from his studies at Leeds Beckett University over the weekend but could not have imagined that he would be heading off again with the coveted Irish National Men’s Singles title in his bag.
Even when top seed Scott Evans pulled out before the competition began, the Alpha player knew there were still a number of talented players in the draw, not least the defending champion Jonathan Dolan, who has been in good form recently and he would be due to meet him in the semi-final.
Stephenson - once ranked as high as No2 in singles back in October 2013 but currently seeded 12th - saw off the Nigel Boyne in Round Two with Boyne forced to retire at one set all before reaching the semi-final with a 21-11 21-12 victory over Mark Brady.
With Dolan playing in the doubles with Stephenson, it was the Sligo player who was to set off at a rate of knots and the Ulster player simply could make little impression, finding himself 11-6 in arrears at the interval in the opening set, and going one set down 21-12.
However, Stephenson raced into the lead in the second and was six points up before Dolan earned his first point of the second set.
He led 11-6 at the interval and was in command throughout to book his place in the final 21-15 21-8.
The final was always going to be a close affair with Joshua Magee having edged out the promising Nhat Nguyen in straight sets.
Having lost in the final two years ago to Ireland’s two-times Olympian Scott Evans, losing this time was never an option for the Alpha 23-year-old and even when Magee took the second set 21-12 to level the opening set won by Stephenson 21-15, it was the Ulster player who came through a mammoth one-hour contest 21-17.
Women’s Singles: Chloe Magee bt Rachael Darragh 21-15 21-14
Women’s Doubles: Sinead Chambers & Jennie King bt Sara Boyle & Rachael Darragh 21-11 21-6
Men’s Doubles Joshua & Sam Magee bt Tony Stephenson & Jonathan Dolan 19-21 21-19 21-14
Under 15 Irish National Championships: Boys Singles Kyle Magee bt Des Duggan 21-9 21-15
Girls Singles: Clodagh Dunne bt Beth Stephenson 22-20 12-21 21-18 Mixed Doubles: Kyle Magee & Clodagh Dunne bt Adam McAllister & Beth Stephenson 21-12 21-13
Boys Doubles: Adam McAllister & Brian O’Mahony bt Mark Kinnerk & Kyle Magee 21-13 21-15
@Girls Doubles: Clodagh Dunne & Beth Stephenson bt Rachael & Rebecca Woods 21-15 21-13