Dawid Sulkowski Open Singles Winner


The second year of the revived Ballymena Table Tennis Open witnessed an entry of sixty six players from eight top clubs covering four of the six Northern Ireland Counties – a reflection of the continued interest in table tennis in the area.

Open Singles Tournament

Last year the Ballymena Open title went to Poland with Pawet Sulkowski defeating the then St Louis Grammar school’s teenage sensation Mark McGuigan. With Pawet unable to defend his title due to work commitments his son Dawid ensured the title would remain in the Sulkowski family when he defeated Ballymoney table tennis legend Brian Orr in four exciting sets.

Brian had defeated Wayne Charleton (Academy Strongtower) in the quarter final and used all his guile and experience to edge passed Queen’s student and strong favourite for the title, Mark McGuigan, in a pulsating semi final of hit and counter hit that had the audience spellbound. In the quarters Dawid comfortably defeated Mark Lynn (Restaurant 1608) and then defeated Annahilt star Gary Crawford in a four sets semi-final. Dawid’s devastating backhand drives proved the difference in both matches.

In the final Brian won the first set with excellent attack and counter hitting. But the sheer power of Dawid’s stroke play eventually forced Brian onto the back foot and although he had some success counter hitting David’s forehand drives, Brian had no answer to the famed Sulkowski backhand. Dawid eventually winning 9-11, 11-4, 11-6 11-8

Grade 2 Tournament

The Grade two tournament saw the two top seeds Mark Lynn (Restaurant 1608) and Jimmy O’Hara (Academy Strongtower) progress to the final. Top seed, Mark defeated Brian Bonnar (Coleraine Baptist) in the quarter finals and he then saw off team mate Paul McGuigan in the semi-final. Jimmy had defeated the much improved Jordon Hood (Academy Strongtower) in his quarter final and edged passed talented Bushmills star Aaron Douglas in the semi-final. Mark, who has yet to taste defeat in the County Antrim Division 2 league, took the final 11-6, 11-6, and 11-4. Mark’s forehand loops proved just too powerful for Jimmy on this occasion but much credit must go to Jimmy who as an octogenarian is still playing excellent table tennis and is a much-feared opponent.

Grade 3 Tournament

The Grade three tournament saw local lad Kevin McElroy (Academy Strongtower) power his way to the final with excellent wins over Anselm Brankin (Coleraine Baptist) and Peter Neeson (Academy Strongtower) in the quarter final and semi final respectively. His opponent in the final, William Weatherup (Ballyclare Methodist) had wins over his son James Weatherup (Ballyclare Methodist) and Jordon Hood (Academy Strongtower) in the quarter and semi finals. In the final, Kevin, playing his best table tennis of the season, edged passed William’s dogged defence to record an excellent straight sets victory 11-4, 11– 8 and 11-3.

Grade 4 Tournament

Dermot McElroy (Academy Strongtower) – not to be out done by his older brother Kevin – reached the final of the Grade four tournament.  With great all round play, Dermot defeated the up-and-coming star Thomas McCann (Restaurant 1608) in the quarter-final and David Peden (Restaurant 1608) in an excellent semi final. In the final he met William Riley (Restaurant 1608) who had defeated Darren Tweed (Academy Strongtower) in the quarter final and team mate Noel McCann in the semi-final. A real ding-dong battle in the final saw Dermot creep passed William in four close sets 11-7, 9-11, 11-6, and 11-8.

Hard Bat Tournament

The novelty hard bat competition is always very well supported and this year was no exception. Gary Crawford from Annahilt showed his obvious talent with the hard bat by defeating Mark McGuigan (Restaurant 1608) and last years winner Brian Orr (Restaurant 1608) in the quarter final and semi final respectively. Indeed Brian did not let go of his title easily as both he and Gary put on a display of hard bat table tennis that brought back memories of Barna, Bergmann and Leech.  The other finalist was Francis Shirley (Bushmills) who had defeated the Open champion Dawid Sulkowski (Poland/Academy Strongtower) in the quarter final and Mark McAllister (Cookstown /Academy Strongtower) in the semi. It looked like a surprise was in the offing when Francis took the first set 12-10, but Gary found another gear to win in four sets 10-12, 11 -7, 11-4, 11 – 8.

Ladies Singles Tournament

The Ladies Open Singles had two local girls reach the semi-finals. Michelle Taylor (Academy Strongtower) was to lose her semi to Amy O’Brien (Islandmagee) while Kathryn Moore (Academy Strongtower) lost a very close semi against hot prospect Emily Hill (Islandmagee). In an all Islandmagee final it was Amy O’Brien that proved too strong for youngster Emily Hill winning 12-10, 11-9 and 11-3.

U12 Tournament

The U12 tournament had eight youngsters placed in two groups of four, Group one consisted of Aaron Rodgers (Restaurant 1608), Sam McCusker (Islandmagee), Emily Hill (Islandmagee) and Adam Steele (Academy Strongtower). It was the talented Emily Hill who emerged triumphant from her group. Group two consisted of Kyle Bonnes (Academy Strongtower) Timothy Burn (Islandmagee) David Barnes (Restaurant 1608) and George Graham (Academy Strongtower). In an extremely tight group it was Timothy who emerged top of the pile. But it was Emily that took the win in the final showing that her previous success in the Ladies was no fluke.

U16 Tournament

In the U16 event two local lads reached the final, Top seed Adam McIlmoyle (Academy Strongtower) defeated Andrew Herbison (Academy Strongtower) in the quarters and had a tough struggle to overcome Coleraine’s teenage sensation Andrew Mulholland (Coleraine Baptist) in the semi final. In the final he met Dermot McElroy (Academy Strongtower) who had defeated Tom Alexander (Academy Strongtower) in a close quarter final and then defeated the number two seed Aaron Douglas (Bushmills)  in the semi final. But Dermot could not repeat his giant killing act in the final as Adam won it in straight sets 11-4, 12-10, 11-6.

The Academy Strongtower table tennis club that host the Ballymena Open would like to offer their sincere thanks to Ballymena Academy for the use of their excellent facilities over the two nights. Special thanks must go to Academy teacher Mr Tom McLeister who supervised the proceeding and in so doing had a couple of very late nights.