At the Butterfly National Junior Championships in DCU, Day One proved to be a day of highly entertaining table tennis, with some titanic struggles, some wonderful play and some surprises along the way.
The Under 12 Girls was always a difficult one to call with some great young talent being developed around the country. The first semi-final pitted the McGlone sisters Elayna and Katie together. Both players were members of the Silver medal winning squad at the Six Nations Primary Schools Championships and a keen battle was sure to ensue. Katie took the first set but Elayna showed tremendous battling qualities to eventually clinch an enthralling five setter and progress to the Final. The other semi-final saw Laura Finn, the top seed, progress past Valentina Puotkalis to set up a Finn v McGlone Final. This Final saw some great attacking play and the match swayed one way and then another, with a final set decider required. The final set went to 7-7 and the title was there for the taking. Finn stood up to the plate to claim the win to great cheers from the appreciative crowd.
In the Under 17 Girls, National Senior Champion Ashley Givan was many people’s favourite. She faced Roisin O’Reilly in the semi-final, and despite dropping the first set looked comfortable enough recording a 3-1 victory. In the other semi-final, Sara Dolan raced into a 2-0 lead over Rebecca Kenny and despite dropping the 3rd set 11-3, showed good resolve to close out the match 3-1. So Dolan and Givan in the Final, and again the crowd was treated to a classic 5 set match. This was Dolan’s last National Junior Championship and she showed steely resolve and produced some fantastic shots to take the last set 11-8 and become the deserved National Junior Champion, adding to her National Under 21 title and National Senior Doubles title to round off a pretty spectacular year for the Eastpoint player.
In the Under 12 Boys, Tom Davis of Club Donic emerged from the pack and produced the goods under pressure to progress to the Semi-Final – a fantastic achievement. Here, he ran into Eric Sheckleton who recovered from slow starts in the 2nd and 3rd set to come back and win in straight sets. Davis will be delighted with his display and we should expect to see more from him next season. The other semi-final had a familiar look to it, as Jonathan Porter faced Kevin Hutchinson. Both players really know how to attack and soon drew the attention of the large crowd. Hutchinson was just too good today, closing out the match in straight sets, to set up a Leinster v Ulster Final. The Final was a nervy affair, with the 3rd set going to 17-15, but Hutchinson was not to be beaten and again was a deserved National Champion.
So to the Junior Boys – many of whom have lit up the Senior scene this season. With Logue, McCreery and Robinson just returned from the Luxembourg Open, the standard of play was high as expected. From team-mates to rivals so quickly! Logue was paired with McCreery in the semi-final and the two produced some great rallies – McCreery eventually won through despite Logue displaying great fighting spirit. Robinson was paired with Declan O’Brien and was just too good today for the Munster player in a reverse of their match at the National Seniors where O’Brien eliminated Robinson in the last 16. An all-Ulster Final saw McCreery produce some sparkling play – he looked dominant throughout , eventually winning in 4 sets.