National U-12 table tennis champion Kate Whelan blazed a trail in Castlebar over the weekend and nailed her colours firmly as the best player of her years in Ireland.
Cruising through her opponents on 3-0 scorelines it all looked too easy on the day, and while Cavan’s Leah Sheckelton put in a brave performance in the final, the gap was too great to close. Eimile McWey played her best ever Irish event to take fifth place in the same category.
Earlier in the weekend Whelan and Amylou Hayes put in a superb performances in U-14 where the both reached quarter-finals, only to lose out to the eventual finalists on narrow margins, but still took 5th and 6th on the day. Amylou and Kate, who form a suberb doubles team on the Irish circuit, gave a real scare to former All-Ireland senior winners Theresa Devaney and Naoimi Wise and were leading 2-0, only to lose control to a major change of tactic which turned the game around to finish 2-3.
Excelent performances also in the west came from Jessie Hayes who reached her fourth U-10 All-Ireland final in a row where she narrowely lost out again to her big rival Ciara O’Toole from Dublin. Kate and Jessie are now part of a small number of girls selected for Irish training camps of elite young players.
Another of the midlands rising young stars, Jack Carroll of Ballyroan, had a superb event and took silverware in Boys U-10 in the plate event. Also successful in reaching a final was Eoghan Whelan U-17 while the two up and coming stars of next season in Leinster, Dylan Grace and Tadhg Downey, performed to an exceptional level at U-12 where they will also play next season, both have ambition to hit the Irish top 10. However this level will require an extreme high level training campaign over the summer months as the standard is so high in the national boys events. Diarmuid Whelan and Ned Lavelle were also displaying spirited performances.
Meanwhile as Castlebar was heading into day two the Hayes girls and Jack Carroll had to put the pedal to the metal and head back to the midlands and join up with their team mates for Community Games action in Carlow. An eventfull day saw many battles take place with U-13 and U-16 team matches for the best in Leinster.
Mountrath U-13 girls took top honours in their event as Jessie Hayes, Leanne Delaney, Nadia Krawczun, Tiegan O’Connor and Hailey Hayes demolished all opposition to take gold in 6-0 results, and so head to the National Finals in Athlone during May as Leinster champions.
Mountrath got off to a fine start in Girls U-16 but were up against a fine Deansgrange team from Dublin in the final, and on a 3-4 scoreline they had to settle for silver, but Amylou and Katie Hayes and Rachel Honner made it a close and competitive final.
In Boys U-13 Ballyroan provided a very young team who were really punching above their weight and hitting all the right notes to win a great semi-final. Jack Carroll, Brian Whelan, Enda Dunne, Kevin Fitzpatrick and Matthew McCormack marched on to challenge a real surprise outfit, Twomilehouse, in the final. This young Kildare team made instant impact on their quest for gold and really put it up to the Laois boys.
Heading into the sixth match with the score at 2-3 Jack Carroll had a major challenge on his hands as he took on young wizard Brian Collins. Nothing was spared by these two nine year olds as topspin followed topspin from long and short distance. Quality serves and fast feet were also active, however on a score of 3-1 in sets Collins claimed gold for Kildare.
Prior to this intense weekend the previous week was the turn of Round 4 Leinster junior ranking which also took place in Carlow. For many young players this was their last chance to collect sufficent points for the prestigious Leinster teams in the upcoming interpros. As expected, Kate Whelan captured Girls U-12 and U-14 with Amylou Hayes taking U-17 and Jessie Hayes winning U-10. Eimile McWey overcame Katie Hayes to take third in the U-12.
Another fine performance by Scott Jestin saw him reach the latter stages in U-12 and U-14 with a great seasonal finish of fourth in Leinster at U-12 and fifth U-14. A performance which must see him in with a great chance of Leinster selection. Following right behind him is young pocket rockets Tadhg Downey and Dylan Grace eagerly awaiting their chance to shine and thats what Grace did in a great plate final over his UCD opponent.
There was a fine first U-10 Boys victory for Paddy Vaughan who is another young local who has shot up the rankings. Success also for Downey and George Goodson on the day along with exceptional performances from Leanne Delaney, Nadia Krawczun, Eoghan and Diarmuid Whelan, Tiegan O’Connor, John Mansfield, Jack Carroll and many more who have taken table tennis to a new high.
Overall provincial champions from Laois for 2011-12 include Kate Whelan U-12 and Amylou Hayes U-14 and U-17 and Jessie Hayes RU in U-10. Next big event is the Irish Junior Nationals April 21/22 in ALSAA (Dublin Airport) where the ever growing band of young table tennis wizards from Co Laois will attend.