Talented Dundonald teen Ellie 'ecstatic' to continue her squash career in New York
These are exciting times for Ellie McVeigh, who has had cause for a double celebration as she bids to enhance her reputation as one of Ulster and Ireland's most talented squash players.
Only a matter of days after landing a dream move to the United States, the Boat Club ace was selected to make her Ireland senior debut at the European Team Championships in Birmingham in May.
Then, in September, the Dundonald teenager will be combining sport and studies as she starts a four-year scholarship at Columbia University in New York.
Fifth in Ireland in the senior rankings and in the top-10 in Europe at European Under-18 level, Ellie will be heading on her transatlantic adventure after she completes her A Levels in the summer.
She has represented Ireland more than 30 times at various levels, the highlight being an appearance at the Under-19 World Junior Championships in New Zealand in 2017.
Ellie also played for Northern Ireland in the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa in 2015 and has now been selected for the Europeans after being unable to participate last season due to examination commitments.
The 18-year-old Methodist College student was spoiled for choice when she opted to apply for scholarships in America, eventually choosing Columbia, and she is relishing the chance to attain new heights in the Big Apple.
"After visiting five universities in 2017, I was amazed at the facilities and opportunities that each one of them could offer," Ellie explained.
"Over the following summer, I received offers to study at both Yale and Columbia and I made the decision to accept Columbia.
"The reason was that I felt that it was a better fit for me and as soon as I walked into the campus I could imagine myself studying there for four years.
"I am beyond ecstatic to have the chance to live, study and play squash in New York and I am full of anticipation and excitement for what my time in college will bring.
"Once the season starts, the squash team travels most weekends to go and compete against other universities across the United States.
"I have grown up facing the challenge of balancing a busy schedule so it won't be completely new to me."
Ellie started playing squash at the age of seven and currently trains six days a week before and after school at the Boat Club in Stranmillis, also finding time to fit in her busy academic commitments.
She says she owes a debt of gratitude to her family and to the Mary Peters Trust, who have supported her over the years.
"My brother and mentor Joshua selflessly devotes a lot of time to coaching me and I am lucky to have such good parents as well," she continued.
"None of my squash aspirations would have been fulfilled without their help, not only financially but also by driving me across Ireland and taking me to Europe to take part in tournaments.
"Fortunately, I have been funded by the Mary Peters Trust, who have supported me greatly since the beginning of my career in squash.
"For that, I am very appreciative and grateful and I am sponsored by Tecnifibre as well, who have also been a fantastic support to me."