2023 Master’s Ulster Open Report & Results

The Vet’s hosted a very successful Veterans Tournament on Saturday the 11th of March in Dungannon. St. Anne’s (Dungannon) was a very successful venue for the latest in the Irish Masters events, with competitors travelling from all 4 provinces. With the advantage of a relatively early start and the use of 12 tables, play concluded by 7.30pm. Consolation singles and playoff matches were also played, which gave competitors additional games.

The morning started with the 40s, where there were few surprises. Kudos to Rory who had flown in from GB, to be told that his hire car was not available, so he travelled from Aldergrove by taxi. His reward was a quarter-final win over Phil 3-0 but was then blitzed by the invincible Ukrainian Oleg whose path to the final was untroubled. In the bottom half Mervyn Taylor made it through to the last 8, losing 3-1 to 2nd seed Tibor. Daryl, in an unaccustomed low seeding position after illness, beat Pat 3-0 to reach the semi, where he and Tibor played the match of the day. Daryl lost the 1st and 3rd games, the 5th was neck and neck, and eventually Daryl won it 12-10. So often Daryl finds a way to win the tight matches. This was a great advertisement for Masters table tennis. Oleg then beat Daryl 11-8, 11-8, 5-11, 12-10. Everything Daryl threw at him Oleg returned, frequently from back at the barrier, and often with his very powerful backhand. Daryl had a chance to take it to a 5th but in the end Oleg was just too ‘strong’(sorry!).

Daryl was favourite in the 50s, though having only qualified for that age-group in January he was unseeded. Top seed was Tibor, and the shock of the day was when he lost in the last 16 to Craigavon’s vastly improved Fergal O’Hagan in 4 games. Dave Gibbons then disposed of Fergal 3-1 but lost in the semi 3-0 to Daryl. 2nd seed was Pat McCloughan who duly reached the semi with a 3-1 win over Des Flanagan. Meanwhile local hero Rod McKirgan battled through to the semi with a last 16 win over Sean McAnaney 3-2 and a 3-0 victory over Mark McAlister. Rod excelled himself by reaching the final with a 1st ever win over Pat 11-7, 6-11, 11-7, 11-9. Daryl won his 2nd consecutive 50s with a hard-fought victory though he did drop the 1st game, scores were 9-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-3.

We then moved to the 60s which was always going to be a very open event. The 2 finalists from the Connacht event, Des and Sean, were drawn in the same group as amazingly they had been at Connacht! Sean was top seed, Des beat him in the group and then progressed to the final with a semi win over Dave Pender 11-8, 9-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-4. The top 2 seeds were now in the bottom half, Sean had a surprisingly straightforward last 8 victory over Philip Shaw 11-7, 11-4, 11-8. Jeremy Lappin reached the semi with a nail-biting win over Fergal 11-8, 7-11, 11-9, 6-11, 12-10. Sean beat Jeremy 3-1 and met Des for the 4th time in 2 tournaments. Des reversed the Connacht final result, winning 10-12, 11-9, 11-4, 11-4, this was Des’ 1st Irish event 60s title.

The last men’s event was the 70s. Brian Finn moved steadily in to the final. Tom Donnelly – great to see him back – gave him some trouble before succumbing 9-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-6. The 3rd game was crucial when Tom was unable to close out a 10-8 lead. Barry Dickson had a very tight 3-2 win over Albert Coulter before losing in the semi to Brian 11-5, 11-9, 11-9. By contrast Norman Nabney lived dangerously all day! He got crunched 3-0 by Barry in his first group match, then beat Liam Perris 3-2, dropped the first game to Jeremy, and in the semi gave away 5 match points to David Jacobson at 2-1 and 10-5, before again winning 3-2. And so to Brian v Norman – friends and practice partners but both determined to win. Brian took the first 2 games at deuce, Norman made a Houdini recovery to win the next 3, scores were 14-16, 11-13, 11-7, 11-6, 11-7. Still friends!

The ladies’ event was hard-fought as usual, though none of the matches went to 5 games. In the battle for 3rd and 4th place Paula beat Sharon. The sole Ulster representative Ruth McGilligan competed with spirit, Galway’s Teresa finished 5th just above Renata, but the highlight was the final match for 1st and 2nd place between Ger and Anne-Marie, with Ger coming out on top 11-9, 10-12, 11-9, 14-12. A fine match, with a difference of only 2 points in each game.

And finally, many thanks are due to the host club, the first time they have held an Irish Masters event. Adrian Brown refereed excellently, helped by Jay McAllister and tournament co-ordinator Susan Irwin. Here’s to 2024!

Tournament results can be downloaded below: