An east Belfast teenager has described her selection to represent Ireland in the World Junior Squash Championships in Malaysia as a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.
Emma McGugan (17) has been supported by Lighthouse Communications to travel to Kuala Lumpur for the tournament this summer.
Emma, who is a Lower Sixth student at Strathearn School, will be one of two girls from Northern Ireland who will form part of the four-strong Ireland team.
“To qualify, I had to be one of the top ranked girls in my age group and when I realised I finished the season as number 1 Under 19 and was to be included in the Ireland squad for Malaysia, I was speechless.
“Going to Malaysia for the championships will really be a once in a lifetime opportunity. To get to this stage, I have had so much support and encouragement. I can’t thank everyone enough.”
Emma, who is also an accomplished tennis player and Irish dancer, admits she has a flair for sport and competition, but added that she has had a lot of help along the way.
“I really have to pay tribute to the very strong network around me including Ulster Squash and my family who have backed me all the way,” she said.
“My coach Graeme Stewart is a former squash professional and Colin Shields, owner and head coach at Total Performance Fitness is my strength and conditioning coach while I’ve also been privileged to work recently with Alexandra Fuller – a South African professional squash player currently ranked number 43 in the world. They’ve all been a huge influence on me.”
As for Ireland’s chances at the championships, Emma – who has already played for Ireland many times at Home Internationals and European Championships as well as competing on the European Junior Circuit – added:
“The individual championships will take place over the first few days, which will then be followed by the team event.
“All eyes will no doubt be on leading teams from places like Egypt and England, but we have all put in a lot of work and I think we can certainly go out there and achieve.
“Squash is already really popular in Malaysia and because of the scale of this event there will be a lot of interest, so we are all really looking forward to it.”
Alyson English, Director, Lighthouse Communications added:
“Many congratulations go to Emma on her inclusion in the Ireland squad for the WSF World Junior Squash Championships in Malaysia.
“We are both delighted and proud to support her as the countless hours of preparation she has put in, on and off the squash court, have been rewarded by the tremendous honour of representing Ireland on the world stage.
“We wish her and her team-mates all the very best for the tournament and a bright future in the sport.”
Emma is continuing to raise money for the trip, a significant part of which is funded by the players.
Donations can be made at https://uk.gofundme.com/send-emma-to-world-junior-squash-championships
The tournament will run from 30th July until 9th August 2019.