153 players from all over Ireland gathered in the West of Ireland last weekend for the final ranking event before the Butterfly National Junior Championships. Ranking points were at stake as well as prestigious ranking event titles. A strong team of volunteers came together to set up the playing venue in Breaffy House for the Connacht Junior Open and Tournament Referee Jamie McConkey directed proceedings.
In the Under 17 Boys, there was some early upsets in round 1 – UCD’s No.38 ranked Charlie Fitzgerald performing well to finish ahead of No.7 ranked Kieran Reilly and Roman Puotkalis to claim a good group win. Also in form was Donic’s Luke Dempsey who claimed Group wins in both the 1st and 2nd Round Groups to progress to the knock-out stage. He then went one better and advanced to the Quarter Finals with a fine win over Eoin Foran. The first big seed to fall was Kevin Hutchinson, who lost out to Donic’s Conor Mullally. Top seed Ryan Farrell looked to be cruising with wins over Tobias Wolff and Tom Davis in the semi-final. In the Final he faced Glenburn’s Zak Wilson who had eliminated Mullally in the last four. Farrell kicked on a gear here and claimed the title with a straight sets victory.
In the Junior girls, initial groups went according to seeding with the exception of Elayna McGlone who finished ahead of the higher ranked Erin Thompson to claim a group win. In the 2nd group, 6th seed Laura Finn was eliminated at the hands of her younger sister Rebecca, with all of the other seeds progressing to the Quarter-Finals. In the top half of the draw, Emma Ludlow ended Rebecca Finn’s involvement prior to an epic 5 setter against top seed Chloe O’Halloran, which Ludlow came through with a storming finish to claim the final game 11-2. The other end of the draw was dominated by Katie McGlone, who was keen to add to her Ulster Junior Open title this year. McGlone eliminated her sister Elayna in the Quarter Final before another 5 set semi-final win over Hannah Lynch-Dawson to set up a Final against Ludlow. Ludlow produced some top class table tennis to dominate the Final and claim her first Junior Ranking title win of the season. This is a fiercely contested category that many will be eagerly anticipating at the National Juniors in April.
In the Cadet Boys, it was Ryan McConkey and James Kelly who upset the seedings, both players ranked 16 in the country but progressing to the last 8 in style in Connacht. However the big four seeds all progressed to the semi-finals to set up some eagerly awaited clashes. First up was top seed Zak Wilson who was pushed all the way by an in form Alex Gillen – Wilson eventually got across the line claiming the fifth game 14-12. The other semi-final also went to five sets, with Brian Dunleavy in familiar home territory just edging out Donic’s Evin McGovern. On to the Final and Dunleavy raced into an early lead to set up a potential shock against Wilson who has claimed all three ranking titles on offer to date this season. Wilson dug in however, working hard to achieve first parity, and then a fine final game performance to secure the title, a remarkable clean sweep to date this season for the Glenburn youngster.
In the Cadet Girls, It was unseeded Marie Williams showing some very promising form in advance of the Primary Schools International with a notable win over Kerry O’Mahoney – a big shock on the day. Williams eventually lost out at semi-final stage to Katie McGlone. McGlone has looked strong at this level all season and faced Kate Whelan in the Final where she was imperious, claiming the Connacht title in straight sets and cement her Number One position in the Butterfly National Rankings ahead of the Nationals.
In the Under 12 Girls, it is a long time since anyone has beaten Mountrath TTC’s Kate Whelan and she again dominated this event, claiming the title in style over international team-mate Marie Williams. In the Under 12 Boys, 3rd seed James Kelly was in fantastic form to claim his first provincial title of the season, claiming his win in a hard fought match against Dylan Grace. In the Under 10’s, Sophie Kenny of Carlow TTC and Thomas Joyce of the Mayo Academy were the title winners.
Congratulations to all players and title winners, thanks to the Connacht Branch and Tournament Referee Jamie McConkey.