A taster session at St Fillan’s Primary School inspired three siblings to take up squash.
A few years on, Orla, Findlay and Ruadhri McDougall all mounted the podium at this year’s Scottish Squash Junior National Championships in Aberdeen.
Orla (under-11) and Ruadhri (Under-15) both became national champions and Findlay was third in the Under 13s.
Orla is in primary seven at St Fillan’s, while Findlay is in first and Ruadhri is in fourth year at Gryffe High School.
The trio, who train at Strathgryffe Tennis, Squash and Fitness Club, were able to use friendly rivalry to drive one another to a medal.
The weekend’s success was kick-started by ten-year-old Orla who went into the Girls Under-11 final as the top seed. She showed no sign of letting the expectation affect her game as she defeated Lily Craig-Gould 3-0 (11/4, 11/1, 11/6).
Findlay, 12, came up against fierce competition in the Boys’ Under-13 section. He shook off a defeat in the semi-finals, where he had been two games ahead but lost 3-2, to win his play-off for third place against Ben Barron. The section was won by top seed Huzaifah Ali from Giffnock.
Ruadhri, 14, came up against Scots qualified Harry Little from Northumbria in the Boys Under-15 final and the crowd was treated to a highly intense and skilful game of squash. The Houston youngster displayed battling qualities to emerge as a 3-0 winner (11/8, 11/9, 11/9).
“I am really happy to have won,” said the oldest of the Houston siblings. “It was a tough game. I was a bit nervous before the game started but I was ranked lower than Harry so there was not as much pressure on me as there was on him.
“I had never played him before, but I felt my drop shots were coming off really well and he was not really getting them back.
“To get the title is fantastic and with my sister Orla having won before my match there was a wee bit more pressure on me to win. But, of course, I am glad that she also won.”
The trio’s mum, Emer, explained that a visit to St Fillan’s by West of Scotland coach Martin Woods helped send the McDougall clan on the road to glory. “They were already members of the tennis club and Findlay was actually the first to start squash,” she said.
“Now they are all in the West of Scotland squads and Ruadhri has competed for Scotland on the European circuit.
“Both St Fillan’s and Gryffe High are very supportive. They had time off last month to compete in the Scottish Junior Open.”