Cork’s Neptune Arena recently staged round four of an action packed national table tennis event.
It brought together all the leading players to do battle with prime awards such as national and provincial teams and individual ranking all at stake as the national events head into its last event in March.
Kate Whelan became the first player to nail the title of National Champion 2015 with a convincing win and four-in-a-row in the U-15 Girls event. Indeed Whelan was so dominating in this class that it was not until this latest event that she dropped a set along the way.
Clubmate Jessie Hayes pushed her hardest to take a set as Whelan won 3-1 in the quarter finals while Hayes finished fifth overall. The champion later went on to take third in U-18 for another weekend of rich pickings.
Dylan Grace produced excellent performances round after round U-15 to reach a grand finale with International wizard Owen Cathcart from Belfast. Cathcart, who is a leading regular on the European circuit, found himself pushed to the limits and under severe pressure from the Mountrath player.
Heading into the final set it stood at 2-2 which had all connected with the Belfast kid in a tense condition. Indeed this was where all his European experience dug him out of a major upset plus the fact that Grace took his foot off the pedal to allow his opponent to dictate the remaining set. Certainally no major difference between the two players as Cathcart is on his way to the National title.
Many more excellent performances along the way from Paddy Vaughan who found himself leading Charlie Fitzgerald 2-0 in what seemed like a major upset on the cards, however Fitzgerald picked up an injury which caused the game to be stopped for some considerable time.
The extra long wait at the table took its toll on Vaughan while the the Dublin player seemed in full flight on return and turned the match around 2-3.
Other fine performances over the weekend also came from Claire Handcock, Tiegan O’Connor (4th in U-13), Amy Jestin, Katie Hayes, Richard Thompson, Sarah O’Connor, Ross Handcock and Amylou and Corinna Hayes.
Tiegan O’Connor claimed a top prize in the form of selection for team Ireland in the upcoming International Primary Schools event in England. This came about following good consistent performances in Dublin, Lisburn, Castlebar and Cork throughout the season at U-13 national events.She has joined fellow club players Amylou Hayes, Kate Whelan and Jessie Hayes in representing Ireland at International primary schools level.
A demanding scedule lies ahead for O’Connor in the form of advanced training every monday night in Athlone as the boys and girls teams train for their upcoming international event. All of the eight players must now raise their game to another level to match the challenges that lie ahead.
Recent events also included a very successful Newbridge Junior Open which brought young players together from the Midlands and Dublin, The event was won by Jake Adler from Cloughjordan with Tiegan O’Connor runner up and Jack Carroll from Ballyroan third.
Next Leinster Ranking event is Palmerston on Sunday, February 15th. Next Midland event is Saturday, February 14th with the Cloughjordan Junior Open. Entries to Catherine at 087-6664932 by Saturday, 7th February. The coming weekend also has Irish squad training in Dublin for Kate Whelan, Dylan Grace and Jessie Hayes.