Sara Boyle admitted she has “never been so excited” to get back on court as she and fellow Dubliner Rachael Darragh produced an outstanding week’s work at badminton’s Poruguese International Championship.
As a double-act, they landed the silver medal while Darragh took singles bronze in what was their first competition action since March.
Along the way, the duo swept past opponents from Portugal, Poland and Scotland before pushing a second Scottish pair – Lauren Middleton and Holly Newall – all the way in the final, 22-20, 25-23.
For Darragh, she ran up three victories, including the elimination of number three seeded Wiktoria Dabczynska in the quarter-final, before coming unstuck by the eventual winner Sabrina Jacquet from Switzerland.
Reflecting on the week’s work, Portmarnock’s Boyle was thrilled to be back out on court and felt rejuvenated after the long, Covid-related layoff.
“I have never been so excited to play,” she told the Dublin Gazette. “I hadn’t played since February – it was a long break followed by a big training block so I was excited to see how I had developed in that time.
“For me and Rachael, it was our first final in a Badminton Europe event. In the singles, even though I lost first round, me and Rachael only lost to the players who reached the final so we can see we have improved.”
Their success as a double-act will create a bit of debate between the close friends about their best course of action in the future.
Both have set the 2024 Olympics as a target with the singles competition the one they want to qualify for but this could allow both to make it to Paris.
“We hadn’t played much doubles in quite a while and had concentrated on mixed and singles. This tournament came up and our [mixed] partners weren’t playing and we had played quite a bit together before.
“We know each other quite well so decided to do a little bit of training together and give it a go. It was a big result given the lack of training we had done [together].
“We will sit down and review it because of this good performance. Both of us do have settled mixed double partnerships and play singles as well which was our focus. It’s hard to know but that was a good result so we will have to talk about it. It’s great to know there is brilliant option there to compete at.
“Off court, we get on very well. We share a room together and have travelled the world. Although, I am competing against her, it’s great to be able to do it with her.
“Both of our targets are 2024 so we are competing for the same resources and the same funding. All that is a factor but once we keep on-court and off-court separate, we will be ok! It will be a battle so we will have to wait and see.”