A sport for everyone
Destroyer Strong digs deep to win Downpatrick thriller
Former Irish International Daryl Strong won his first Frank Spalding Memorial Ulster Masters title in dramatic fashion at an action packed Downpatrick open table tennis tournament in aid of the Northern Irelands Children’s Hospice at the weekend. Meanwhile John McFaul and Andrew Gibson rolled back the years to claim the doubles title and Cookstown combination bat specialist Mark McAlister survived three match points to snatch the Windsor Clarke Memorial sandpaper cup from Drogheda international Ollie Adamson. Most importantly the day raised £800 for the chosen charity which does marvellous work in Northern Ireland .
Arriving at the De la Salle sports hall with an unblemished Masters record Daryl ‘the Destroyer’ Strong knew he would face his biggest challenge yet with the inform Donegal attacker Pat McCloughan going for a hat trick of Ulster titles and was fresh from beating all comers in Munster. On his way to the final Strong looked the real deal as he swept aside experienced campaigners Jeremy Lappin, Norman Nabney and Barry Dickson with ruthless precision but McCloughan was put through the mill by both Dungannon topspin warrior Rodney McKirgan and the hard hitting Roy Coard (Lisburn), the conqueror of both master blocker Andrew Gibson (Carryduff) and Paul Gallagher (Letterkenny). As Daryl swept into a 2-0 nil lead in a cagey but entertaining encounter the writing seemed to be on the wall for the two time champion but playing with incredible determination and skill he somehow levelled the match. Like two seasoned heavyweights they continued to trade blows as the final set progressed; but under pressure, Strong refused to buckle and ran out a relieved 11-6 winner.
Ferocious Fermanagh hitter Jeremy Lappin started as favourite to lift The Windsor Clarke Memorial cup but the former Scottish international was put to the sword by local heroes Joe ‘Roller’ McConville (Strangford) and Brian McCandless (Clough) to end his challenge. The Leinster duo of Ollie Adamson and Brian Finn equipped themselves well with the sandpaper bats and made their way into the semi finals as did McAlister and an impressive McCandless. McAlister just got the better of Finn, who once beat former European champion John Hilton, while the vastly experienced Adamson used his backhand flicks to battle past McCandless. The final could not have been closer with the pendulum swinging one way and then the other as both players entertained the large audience. Irish Masters International Adamson had three match points to claim the title, but Mark kept the faith and won through 18-16 to rapturous applause.
Finally Andrew Gibson and John McFaul had won interprovincial gold as Ulster juniors along with Andrew Dennison and Peter Robinson back in 1985 and joined forces again 30 years on to beat hot favourites McCloughan and Gallagher in an absorbing open doubles final. Jim ‘The Sidewinder’ Sterling and fleet-footed Ted Mahaffy won Consolation singles events.
The Organisers would like thank De La Salle High School Downpatrick, Lecale Table Tennis League, Table Tennis Ulster and St Patrick’s Grammar School Downpatrick for all their help. To find out more about the fantastic work of the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice visit www.nihospicecare.com
Downpatrick Open Results:
Frank Spalding Ulster Masters
Pat McCloughan (Donegal) bt Roy Coard (Antrim) 3-1
Daryl Strong (Tyrone) bt Barry Dickson (Armagh) 3-0
Strong bt McCloughan 3-2
Jim Sterling (Down) bt Brian Gourley (Down) 3-2
Ted Mahaffy (Belfast) bt Trevor Patrick (Down) 3-2
Windsor Clarke Memorial Cup
Mark McAlister (Tyrone) bt Brian Finn (Meath) 2-1
Ollie Adamson (Meath) bt Brian McCandless (Down) 2-1
McAlister bt Adamson 2-1
John McFaul/Andrew Gibson (Down) bt Pat McCloughan/Paul Gallagher (Donegal) 2-1