Almost 50 players entered the event this year, with by far the largest number in the 50s. All the events were very closely contested, and even in the absence of a couple of likely seeds the standard of play was impressive.
The “blue riband” event, the 40s, saw the third seed Phil Wallace in the “group of death” – there always seems to be one! After losing 3-0 to Pat McCloughan he qualified for the knockout stage with a win over Paul Gallagher (both these players had beaten him in the previous tournament and briefly the organisers weren’t “fast Phil’s” favourite people!) He met perennial winner Daryl in the last 8, beat him 11-6 in the fifth, and then disposed of Rod McKirgan 3-1in the semi. In the bottom half Eduardo came through with 3-0 wins over Pat and Tibor. The final was nip and tuck, a classic, Eduardo’s Penhold grip and heavy spin were a complete contrast to Phil’s “see ball hit ball” style, though to be fair Phil interspersed his power shots with some deft touches. It was difficult to pick a winner as the tide ebbed and flowed, but eventually Phil was a worthy champion -5 5 -5 8 8.
The 50s had its share of titanic struggles and with an entry of 25 it looked as if we could be playing until Sunday morning – not recommended for a church hall! The quarter final match between Mark McAlister and Paul Gallagher was only 4 games, but there was never more than 2 points between them at the end of each game, and the third was 20-18, Mark eventually emerging victorious, only to lose to Tibor 3-0 in the semi. Tibor had beaten Philip Shaw 3-2 in a bruising encounter and said afterwards “How does he slap those balls from everywhere! It’s just not possible.” Pat made his way to the final with 3-0 victories over Fergal O’Hagan and Sean McAnaney. In a pulsating final Tibor won 3-2, recovering from a 2-1 deficit.
The 60s began at 9.30am, Norman started in his usual fashion with two 5-setters (lost deuce in 5th to Sean and beat Jeremy Lappin 9 in 5th) but had no answer in the semi to PhilipShaw 0-3. Dave Pender beat Sean 3-1 in the semi and then had a tremendous hard-fought win over Philip in 4 sets. His smile was as wide as the Lagan as he said he didn’t care about the prizemoney, this was only the second Masters event he had ever won (he still accepted the winner’s envelope!).
Brian Finn always looked like the 70s winner, dropping only 2 games in 5 controlled matches. In contrast Norman staggered through with 2 more 5-setters against Ken Peare and Albert Coulter, but after losing the first in the final Brian had too much consistency. At 12-12 in the 4th Brian hit a sumptuous backhand winner of which Norman would have been proud and closed out the match 3-1, emerging an emphatic winner. Brian has now won all three 70s events this season, a tremendous record.
The ladies’ event had 9 participants and played off in 2 groups. In group A Ger had an incredible struggle with Sharon Gibbons, dropping the first two games, winning the third 19-17, the fourth 13-11, and the fifth 11-5. Sharon in turn dropped the first and third to Renata Gadula before coming through 11-9 in the fifth. Annmarie won all her group matches 3-0, Paula O’Neill was made to fight hard for second place, being taken to 5 by Galway’s Teresa Egan (11-9) and by Ikuko Mototani (11-6). In the crossover semi-finals, Ger beat Paula 3-0, while Annmarie beat Sharon 3-1. Ger had an unusually comfortable win over Annmarie in the final 3-0.
The top table was manned very efficiently all day by Glenburn’s Herbie Ross and Neil Magrath, though it was noted that Neil skived off briefly with the pathetic excuse of going for his Covid booster.
As a club we appreciated the support given by the players and the fact that we were able to give Dave and Sharon Gibbons a break from their normal duties and concentrate on playing.