Butterfly Irish Junior National Championships: Report

Katie McGlone

The domestic Junior Ranking  tournament season concluded at the weekend with the staging of the Butterfly National Junior Championships at the National Indoor Arena, Blanchardstown. The venue was a massive hit for all involved as players, coaches and parents took in the fantastic new surroundings for the first time.

In the Under 18 Girls event Katie McGlone was attempting to do the treble having won the Senior Ladies & Under 21 National titles earlier in the month. 
The semi finals were a treat for the spectators as defending champion Mia O’Rahilly Egan took on Rebecca Finn in the top half and Katie played the in form Nga Nguyen in the bottom half.

At two sets all in a pulsating display of table tennis it was anybody’s match between Mia and Rebecca. When Rebecca took a 10/7 lead in the final set it seemed game over. However Mia had other ideas and won the last five points to take the set 12/10 and seal her place in the final. Similarly Katie and Ngas match went the distance. Nga looking for her 1st win against Katie led 4-0 in the decider. A timeout proved crucial at this point & turned the match in Katie’s favour and she went on to take the set 11/9 and with it her place in the final.

In the final match, Katie and Mia shared the first two sets before Katie won the third set 11/5. In the 4th set Katie raced out to a 10/5 lead. Mia clawed her way back to 9/10 but Katie took the next point and with it the U18 National Title, her 3rd National Singles Title of the season, a superb achievement!

In the Boys event Owen Cathcart went into the event as overwhelming favourite. Owen lived up to expectations in the early rounds and apart from one very tight set against Art McLaughlin, never looked in trouble.

In the semi finals Owen ended the domestic Junior career of Conor Gallagher with a straight sets victory. In the opposite half Thomas Earley was the surprise package. Thomas fought off Dylan Grace’s efforts to take his place in the semis against Charlie Fitzgerald. Again Thomas used his defensive skills 
to thwart Charlie’s challenge and make it an all Ormeau final. Here Owens attacking repertoire proved to be decisive and he won his first Junior Boys National title in straight sets to add to his impressive previous haul at Under 10, Under 13 and Under 15 level.

In the Under 13 Girls the top four seeds made the semi finals. Sophie Earley, the top seed played Pravesha Ragi, the 3rd seed. In another top quality match, Sophie came out on top in four sets. In the bottom half the number two seed Silke Heinen saw off the challenge of Amna Mandal. Silke raced into a 5/0 lead in the first set of the final against Sophie. From there Sophie dug deep and went on to win the final in three sets and with it the National Under 13 Girls Singles Title.

In the boys event Thomas Joyce was seeking his 3rd successive Under 13 National Title and he duly delivered. Thomas won his semi against James Skelton 3/1 and met Dillon Byrne in the final. Dillon had won his semi final against Jonathan Mooney 3/0. Thomas won the final 3/0 in impressive fashion. 

The day concluded with the inaugural Junior Doubles events. The Girls event was won by Mia and Zofia with Conor Nugent and Zak Earley taking the Boys.

On the second day it was the turn of the Under 15s and Hopes and Para Standing Singles. In the Girls Under 15s Mia, who won the title in 2016 played the Under 13 winner from the previous day, Sophie in the top half semi final. Mia came out on top 3 nil, winning the 3rd set 15/13. Nicole Scott, the 2nd seed played 4th seeded  Pravesha in the other semi and in a close and high quality encounter Nicole prevailed 3/1.

Mia and Nicole produced a fitting National final with a high standard of open attacking table tennis. Mia led by a set and 10/8. Then Nicole showed her mettle by winning 4 points on the trot and levelling the match at one set all. Mia took the title by winning the next two sets 11/6 11/8.

In the boys Thomas saw off Ciaran O’Donoghue in one semi while James Skelton, who had beaten the 2nd seed, Art, defeated Kristijonas Dapkus in the other half. The final produced a high quality display and when James took a 2/1 lead it seemed an upset was on the cards. However Thomas showed his years of experience at this level to win the next two sets for the loss of only seven points  winning the final set, 11/2 and become Cadet Champion to add to his Mini Cadet title on  Saturday.

The Para Standing Singles was won by the ever present Paddy Vaughan, who overcame international team mate and rival Conor O’Callaghan in straight sets to add another National title to his collection.

In the hopes event, the impressive youngster Gellert Moravcsik came out on top, as all players involved got lots of matches in the usual fun styled event.