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McKeown and Ralston exit with big Malahide event next on their hit list


By John Flack

Local players Jordan McKeown and Caleb Ralston made disappointing second round exits at the junior ITF world ranking tournament in Dublin yesterday, both dismissed by French opposition.

McKeown went down 6-4, 6-3 after a battling display against the top seed Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard while Ralston, who was ranked seventh for the event, fell to a 6-3, 7-6 loss to Leo Racquin.

Both Ulster teenagers will now turn their attention to next week's ITF at Malahide.

Last week Ralston defeated McKeown in the Belfast City tournament at Windsor before being forced to retire from his quarter-final due to a back injury.

After yesterday's defeat, the 18-year-old from Lurgan said: "I was disappointed with both the result and performance and I had chances to take the second set but didn't execute them."

McKeown, who is also 18, said: "I was hampered with a shoulder injury so I couldn't serve to my full potential, although it was still a winnable match."

Meanwhile, Karola Bejenaru is through to the second round of a $15,000 tournament in Portugal.

The 21-year-old Romanian-born Windsor player was leading Cristina Ene 2-1 in the first set when her compatriot was forced to retire with injury.

Bejenaru will discover this afternoon who she will meet in the last 16.

Earlier this year it was excessive snow which led to rallies being cancelled - now it is the extreme heat.

Sunday's fourth round of the Irish National Championship, the Sligo Rally, has been called off because of the dangers posed by the tarmac roads melting in these exceptional weather conditions.

The west of Ireland in particular has seen tar melting on many roads and gritters, which usually only appear during the winter, are being used in some areas to spray the surface and keep traffic moving.

And with no sign of the weather changing, the organising Connacht Club decided it was too risky to go ahead with Sunday's round of the championship which is, ironically, sponsored by Triton Showers.

"It is disappointing but it is the correct decision," said Robert Lyttle, clerk of the course.

"We have a very good relationship with the Sligo County Council, an Garda Síochána, the emergency services and the residents along the rally route. It is paramount for our club that we continue to protect all those relationships. Indeed, we will be working with all concerned to explore our options."

It is believed to the first time a round of the championship has been called off because of hot weather although some years ago the final three stages of the same rally were cancelled in similar circumstances.

The Connacht Club meet tonight and hope to come up with an alternative date - possibly as early as July 15.

Declan Boyle, a two-time national champion, is the current leader of the series and was scheduled to head the Sligo entry list in his WRC Ford Fiesta.

Meanwhile, the Rainbow Communications Loughgall Rally goes ahead on Saturday. The six-stage event uses the tarmac drives of the scenic Loughgall Country Park and the entry list is headed by Damien Toner, winner for the past two years in his Ford Escort.

The line-up also includes last year's runner-up John Bradley, Camillus Bradley and David Armstrong, all in Escorts.

Belfast Telegraph

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