Rory got onto the team by beating all-comers in the trials a month ago while still suffering the after-effects of a nasty ankle injury. However, by the time US Junior competition began he had fully recovered and his play reflected this as he stormed his way to a massively impressive win in the 17 & under grade.
After easily getting into the final with wins over San Jose’s Anthony Manolis and Albuquerque’s Moy Gardea, Rory faced no. 1 seed Andres Cordova from Mexico in what was the most eagerly-anticipated final of the whole tournament.
Andres is a younger brother of Luis and Daniel, both of whom are top five world-ranked players and only recently Andres himself had competed in a Pro Stop event. To put it mildly, there was a lot expected of the young Mexican.
Rory, who did not let the Mexican’s reputation put him off, took charge from the very start and even his physically imposing size and ultra-cool persona appeared to rattle the highly-rated Cordova. Rory’s clever use of the roof took the front-court specialist out of his comfort zone and when the set-ups inevitably came his way Rory’s clinical killing was a joy to behold. Although he tried valiantly, the longer the match continued the more frustrated Cordova looked and Rory never took his foot off the gas, winning 21-7, 21-6 to give Roscommon its first male US Junior Nationals champion since Michael McHale won the 15 & under grade back in 1991.
Upon winning, Rory was warmly embraced by his long-term coach Aengus Cunningham who was also the Irish team coach for the tournament and was visibly thrilled with his protégé’s win.
Rory also teamed up with his 15 & under teammate Anthony Clifford from Kilkenny to easily take down the 17 & under doubles title. They won each of their games with the minimum of fuss.