Sensational table tennis performances were produced by many young players from Laois at Round 3 of the All-Ireland series in Killarney over the weekend.
Kate Whelan made it an astonishing eight Irish grand-prix wins in a row.She captured all five events last season and against all odds has taken three out of three this season to date.She is competing against players who are training in many parts of Europe in order to overcome her grip on the game, but this Ballyroan girl is simply a class act at the sport.
While she was taking a 3-0 win in the final over excellent Athlone player Yasmine Barry, a new kid on the block, Dylan Grace from Mountrath table tennis club was carving out a major result for himself in boys U-12.
Grace cruised with ease through the early rounds but the quarter finals saw a good challenge from Alex McGovern of Donic. This paired him up against Belfast sensation Eoin Cathcart in a semi-final. As expected the Ulster player produced an amazing start to the match but Dylan dug deep into his aspirations and produced an amazing array of counter-attack after counter-attack and eventually broke down his opponent to square it at 2-2.
Nail biting tension and blistering table tennis was witnessed as a ding dong battle ensued in the final set, with each player taking the upper hand in stages, but as the set was near completion Grace pulled out two sensational shots to capture the match and head into the final.
In that final he was up against Maldovian wonder kid Issac Ghenadie. The latter raced into a two set lead with form that seemed like taking him to an early finish but the Mountrath player made some tactical changes to his play and from what seemed impossible became possible through sheer determination. Launching blistering attack and calculated spin plus an excellent service game he produced three remarkable sets to capture the U-12 title 3-2.
Kate Whelan and Tiegan O’Connor produced two more excelent performances in other finals. Whelan repeated her magical form from to carve her way through a strong U-14 girls field to comfortably reach the semi-finals where her opponent was Ulster’s Rebecca Finn.
Whelan had to be brave, creative and persistant to a new level in order to keep a grip on Finn and that she did, producing an incredible performance to narrowly take a 3-2 victory to reach the final. Her opponent was to be pimple bat expert Chloe O’Halloran from Cork. This game was most difficult for Whelan as everything she threw at her opponent came back with dead pace and little to work with.
A game of patience was required but Kate had school to go to on Monday so she decided to stick to attack with a fast game from her end of the table.While the sets were close in scoring the Munster girl took the final on a 1-3 scoreline. For local table tennis coach Jimmy Hayes having players in four All-Ireland finals in Killarney was a magical accomplishment as the sport of table tennis continues to develop and grow in the midlands.
Tiegan O’Connor of Mountrath produced an excelent performance at U-10 to reach her first All-Ireland final and gave a very spirited challenge to her opponent Mai Egan of Donic. O’Connor has been making excellent progress in recent times and has ambitions to stay at the top in table tennis.
Many other local players performed to an extremely high level at the event. Jack Carroll (Ballyroan) produced a super performance to take third in Boys U-10 this followed a great win in Leinster the previous week. Sophie Kenny (Carlow) also reached the high notes taking third in U-10 girls.
Many other local players produced excellent performances in this national event - Jessie Hayes 5th, Nadia Krawczun 8th, Leanne Delaney 9th all made it into that magical top 10 at U-12. Extremely talented Tadhg Downey made excelent progress with 5th in U-12 and U-14. Paddy Vaughan and Claire Handcock hit high notes in making it into the quarter-finals of the U-12.
Scott Jestin, Amylou Hayes, Katie Hayes, Sarah O’Connor and Amy Jestin all performed extremely well in an event that consisted of the very best talent in Irish table tennis.