Key moments in life are more often than not decided by close margins, not least in sport but also in college. Sometimes the results may not go your way, but you can be happy with the performance you put in.
Over at the European Junior Badminton Championships in Mulhouse in France, the Ireland squad take part in the Team event drawn in a tough group against the home favourites France, the much-fancied Ukraine, and Belgium.
They come away with one win from three, but having lost just five more games than they won – a measly margin in racquet sports – close margins was what let them down in games against the French and the Ukrainians, where a couple of points the other way would give a vastly different group table.
Moya Ryan plays in both the women’s doubles and mixed doubles and gave her all in every game, but acknowledges that, on the day, the luck rode with her opponents.
“We were unlucky in ways,” said Ryan. “There were some very close matches that could have gone either way, they just didn’t go our way.”
But she did say that she can be happy with her own performance, which improved game on game.
“We had a really good win against a pair we wouldn’t have expected to beat,” she said of her mixed doubles game with partner Paul Reynolds in the Belgium match.
“Our individual performances all improved throughout, but especially, personally, our doubles improved over the team event.”
That improvement in performance led Ryan to begin dreaming of success in the individual event, which began with Reynolds on Tuesday.
Their first opponents were Samy Corvee and Juliette Moinard of the French team that beat them already, and went on to lift the overall team crown in the competition.
“They’ll be tough, they’re on home ground here,” Ryan said before the game. “We’re definitely the underdogs.”
Overcoming such a prodigious challenge would not be easy for most but Ryan does it from day-to-day, managing to balance her burgeoning badminton career with her studies in DCU.
A student of Physical Education with Biology, Ryan said it is a tough course with a lot of hours of work going into it, but that she is just about able to keep on top of things.
“I would have one training session in the morning and one in the evening,” she said. “So any free time I have I try to make sure I stay on top of the workload and to not let it build up.
“I always try to set aside a bit of time each day, just to keep on top of assignments. It’s about finding the balance, and when people are supporting you it makes it a lot easier.”
The support Ryan mentions comes courtesy of the DCU Sports Development Service, who have assisted her greatly with academic support when she has been forced to miss important lectures.
“I’ve good support from them, they’ve been really good to me,” she said.
At times its “hard being away” particularly during the busy end-of-semester period, but “it’s important to stay committed to your sport” according to Ryan, and the service helps her greatly with that.
Ryan, however, is not the only top level badminton player in DCU currently, as fellow student Sara Boyle represented the Ireland senior team in February, and the Badminton Club are away at intervarsity championships this week also.
“I’m disappointed to have missed that,” laments Ryan, “because I did want to represent my college, but we do have a very high level of athletes competing in badminton in the college.”
There is scope for the popularity of badminton to grow in the college, and she understands that the athletes now competing have the power to help the sport grow throughout DCU.
“It’s our job as well to try and promote it and help other people get involved as well,” she said.
Growth may well be to come for Shuttle Soc in the future, but for now her focus is firmly on the championships in France, and with final preparations finished Ryan and Reynolds took to the court to face their French foes.
The first set went to a 20-20 deuce tie but the Irish pair pulled out two consecutive points to sneak by 22-20, before another narrow victory in the second set by six points saw them through.
The underdogs came good, with the luck landing on their side in the first game, and a proud performance was matched with a proud win against the favoured opposition, and Ryan said that if they got past the French couple they would aim for much headier heights.
“We’ll be hoping to push for the quarter finals, but again to get there we’ll have to beat pairs we aren’t expected to beat,” she said “but we’re up for the challenge.”
Image Credit: Mark Phelan (Badminton Europe)