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Irish shaded by dutch masters

With the powerful Dutch team in their group, the Irish men's badminton team knew they faced an uphill battle at the European qualifying tournament for the Thomas Cup -- the world team championships.

Playing in Warsaw, Ireland had a decent draw against Estonia, Greece and the Netherlands. To stand a chance they had to beat Estonia and Greece, and this they did in style.

Against Estonia, Irish No1 Scott Evans got off to a flying start in his singles match against Raul Must, winning the first set 21-9. Must, who had beaten Evans before, did his best to catch up in the second, with the score going to 19-19 before Evans snatched the two points he needed for victory.

When Tony Stephenson then beat Rainer Kaljumae after losing the first set, Ireland were looking good for victory, but then Estonia pulled back with Kristjan Taherand beating Niall Tierney in the third singles and Scott Evans with Daniel Magee losing the second doubles to Must and Anta Mangel in the third set.

With the match now at two apiece, the first men's doubles would be the decider. For Ireland, Sam Magee and Tony Stephenson faced Kristjan Taherand and Kristjan Kaljurand, and controlled the match from the start, winning 21-15, 21-11.

Next up was Greece, with Ireland taking a comfortable 4-1 victory. Evans and Stephenson both won their singles in straight sets, while the doubles pairings of Sam Magee and Stephenson and Evans and Tierney had equally comfortable wins.

Against the Dutch, Evans made a great start, beating Rune Massing in a tough three-setter that lasted 44 minutes. It was a first win over Massing for the Irish No1. Both Tony Stephenson and Niall Tierney battled bravely in their singles matches but lost.

When the Dutch pair of Koen Ridder and Lester Oey beat Sam Magee and Tony Stephenson, there was no way back for the Irish. Scott Evans and Niall Tierney still had to play the second doubles and this was a thriller. The Irish pair lost the first set 21-23, and then forced the tie-break when they won the second set 21-18. Neither side gave an inch, but the Dutch finally pushed ahead, winning 21-18.

It was a shame we couldn't go further. "We had a huge chance; unfortunately we didn't take it," said Scott Evans after the match.

His next big tournament is the German Open. "I will have a week's training after the German Open, and then hopefully make it into the qualifying tournament for the Swiss Open," says Evans, who is based in Denmark.