A night to be remembered in Balbriggan – Tommy Caffrey awarded Honorary Life Membership of Table Tennis Ireland on his 80th Birthday.


Tommy Caffrey, the most famous and the most capped Irish Table Tennis player of all time was surprised when he walked into his club in Balbriggan for what he thought was a regular league match. There to greet Tommy and to celebrate his 80th Birthday was a large crowd of club members, old and new table tennis friends, family, politicians, and dignitaries, including the President of Table Tennis Ireland, Patricia Hunter. Tommy was warmly greeted with handshakes and hugs. In fact, it took quite a while for proceedings to get under way, but this was not a night to rush things. Rather than a party, the members and family had decided that an event focussing on Tommy and his table tennis career would be best, and what an enjoyable evening it turned out to be. It was a night of warm speeches, great table tennis and some very welcome refreshments. It was also the night that Tommy Caffrey was awarded Honorary Life Membership of Table Tennis Ireland, an honour which was very well deserved, especially after 151 senior caps and large number of veterans caps. It appears that Tommy is the most capped individual in Ireland in any sport. Quite the achievement.

John Keogh, on behalf of Balbriggan Table Tennis Club, opened proceedings by welcoming those in attendance and discussing Tommy’s stellar career and his valued membership of the club where is held in such high regard. Perhaps the highlight of the night was a video call from TTI’s Life President and a great friend of Tommy’s, Joe Veselsky. While the audience listened in, Joe recalled some of Tommy’s career and sent his best wishes.

Then it fell to Pat Hunter to present the Honorary Life Membership award to Tommy.  Pat recalled her first meeting with Tommy in 1964 when he coached her in Butlins Mosney, where she won a free week and the ‘most improved girl’ award. From that Pat took the audience down memory lane, as she recalled Tommy’s career and various famous games he played. There were many in the hall that also recalled those events. Tommy seemed to be able to remember every player and every score including two Irish Open titles (the first in Balbriggan in 1963) and various international matches against the best in Europe and the World at which he was, more often than not, victorious. However, the victory Tommy values most is when he and his son Colin won the men’s senior doubles at the Munster Open in Cork, beating Kevin Keane and Owen Molloy in the final. The Caffreys were not the favourites to win that day, but the tactics were for Colin to do the attacking while Tommy controlled the flow of the game. And the plan worked. Tommy mentioned that, inspired by Joe Veselsky, who will be 105 in October, he has no intention of retiring and will continue playing table tennis.

As if to prove the point, Tommy played four exhibition matches, singles and doubles including against Pat McCloughan, Board member of TTI and Balbriggan club member. The games officiated over by Dave Cunningham resulted in an honourable draw. It was lovely to see a score of young players, club juniors, watching the games and soaking up the atmosphere, and quite a bit of the cake too!

Two local politicians, Cllr Grainne Maguire, Deputy Mayor of Fingal and Cllr Tony Murphy both reflected on Tommy’s contribution to the sport but also to the locality, Balbriggan, Stamullen and Gormanstown, where he is well known.

Tommy’s daughter Denise rounded off the evening by thanking, on behalf of the Caffrey Family, all those who had organised the event and all those who had attended. Certainly, a night to be remembered. Table Tennis Ireland would like to thank the members of Balbriggan Table Tennis Club for their hospitality on the evening, their kind invitation to attend and for facilitating Tommy’s award.