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Shephard, Coombs and Bedford seal glory in Ireland

Jack Shephard, Krysten Coombs and Rebecca Bedford led the English charge as they all secured titles at the Forza Irish Para-Badminton International in Dublin.

With competition and standards being raised all the time as the players set their sights on the Tokyo 2020, England's para-badminton stars showed why they should be feared on the world stage – with two years still to go until the sport’s Paralympic debut.

Shephard and Coombs played out a three-game all-English thriller in the final of the men’s SS6 singles, with top seed Shephard coming from behind to secure victory.

Both enjoyed strong runs to the final in what was a competition dominated by English interest – Andrew Martin and Isaak Dalglish also proved the country’s strength in depth as they made the quarter-finals.

Coombs and Shephard then enjoyed glory as a team by powering to victory in the men’s doubles, beating Dalglish and Martin in the semi-finals before outclassing Hong Kong’s Man Kai Chu and Chun Yim Wong 21-17 21-11 in the final, one of a number of strong performances against Asian opposition.

Elsewhere, Bedford sealed a terrific win in the SS6 mixed doubles. She was seeded third alongside Scot Robert Laing, and they saw off both the top two ranked teams en route to victory.

Bedford and Laing put Americans Miles Krajewski and Katherine Valli to the sword in the quarter-finals, winning 21-5 21-4, before battling past top seeded Niall McVeigh, of Ireland, and Carmen Giuliana Poveda Flores of Peru in a terrific three-game encounter – 21-11 16-21 23-21.

Facing fellow England star Dalglish and Poland’s Oliwia Szmigiel in the final, Bedford and Laing proved better on the day as they secured a 21-13 21-15 triumph.

The win completed a terrific double for Bedford, who stormed to glory in the SS6 women’s singles, beating top seed Poveda Flores in the final 21-19 12-21 21-10.

Martin Rooke and German partner Thomas Wandschneider, seeded fifth in the WH1-WH2, enjoyed a terrific run to the final, but were undone at the last by the Korean top seeds Kyung Hoon Kim and Sam Seop Lee.

Rooke also defeated fellow Englishman Gobi Ranganathan during a run to the quarters in the WH2 men’s singles.

There was plenty of English interest in the SU5 men’s doubles, with James Binnie, Sean O’Sullivan and Bobby Griffin all in action with respective partners.

Griffin, along with Korean Gi Yeon Kim, defeated second seed Russians Oleg Dontsov and Pavel Kulikov as they progressed to the semi-finals, but could not negotiate Sukant Kadam and Suryo Nugroho in their final-four clash. Binnie and O’Sullivan were beaten in their quarter-finals.

Owen Kilburn lost to Finn Timo Villanen in the WH1 men’s singles, while Antony Forster was edged out by Constantinos Constantinou in the SL4.

Forster and partner Mary Margaret Wilson were also beaten in the last eight of the mixed doubles SL3-SU5 by Guillaume Gailly and Veronique Braud of France.

Photo: Badminton Photo