European Round-up: November 2016

Welcome back to our monthly European Round Up, an article built to showcase our home-grown talent and their efforts in European Table Tennis Leagues. So let’s get started here we are in December and Christmas is drawing ever closer. In the build up to the holiday period our best players haven’t been taking their foot off the gas. All through November they have continued to scour Europe’s best leagues for crucial match practice. A busy month for a lot of them, this month we’ll cover Ashley Robinson and Alexander Gillen in France, Gavin Maguire and Zak Wilson in Germany and finally Paul McCreery in Belgium.

Let’s go with our usual format of starting with Ashley Robinson, Ireland’s highest world ranked player. Two outings with Saint Louis TT this month for Ashley and first up was a cliff-hanger with Chelles TT. Ashley raced to his first two wins in very strong 3-0 performances over Laurent Thomas & Sylvain Courtois. The team moved into what looked to be an unassailable 7-4 lead only for the team to get slightly complacent and be pegged back to a 7-7 draw. Ashley lost his final match 3-0 and said ‘I struggled with my concentration in the last match, I felt my head was all over the place and I really didn’t perform well at all’, a harsh lesson learned for the Clogher native. Ashley’s second match was yet again not a straightforward one, playing the league leaders Tours 4S you would imagine it would be a battle. Ashley’s team ran out 8-1 victors on the day with Ashley providing two wins. The first win versus Nicolas Gaudelas, Ashley was 1-1 and 9-4 down but using all his battling qualities he managed to win that set deuce and take the match in 4 sets. In the second match Ashley built himself a 2-0 lead over Lucas Rigault only to be matched again at 2-2. In what sounded a very tense affair, our man took the match 14-12 and sent his team on their way to a victory over the league leaders. Ashley stands with a personal balance of 8:5 going into the last weekend of the half season in December, impressive!

Staying in France, Alexander ‘Sasha’ Gillen is one of Ireland’s most exciting young talents. A man we don’t get to see on home soil nearly enough as he plies his trade in Hennebont going to school and training simultaneously. There were two matches this month for the young Irishman. An 8-5 victory for Hennebont versus Saint Pair Broqueville and Sasha was one of the leaders in the team winning two out of three singles. He beat Jean Michel Carquin in a 3-2 epic. Following that he took out Samuel Piret in a confident display 3-1. Sasha’s good form ended there and it was a pity for him that he couldn’t make it three out of three, he lost out to Julian Pasquette. Second match now and Hennebont were 8-3 victors versus Alfort JSA. This time out Sasha kept up his form and was successful in his first match against Nicholas Benchour Martin however, in his second match he lost out to Alexis Millot in a hard fought 3-1. One more match left for Sasha for this half of the season and Sasha’s team sit second in the division. He told us there is ‘an outside chance of promotion but they have been waiting for someone to do them a favour and beat a strong team from CAEN. Good luck Sasha!

From France, we go to Germany to revisit our National Champion, Gavin Maguire. 3 matches this month for Gavin with his team Medizin Magdeburg with a hiccup thrown in there. First up Gavin’s team played against Holzhausen, a team from Leipzig renowned for their large home support and the poor conditions for a team of their calibre. Gavin provided one win and one loss for his team in a 9-5 victory over Holzhausen. A 3-0 for and a 3-0 against versus Gregor Meinel and Philip Hoffmann respectively.Due to play a double match weekend against two of the weaker teams in the league, Gavin was struck down with a viral infection on the Friday night, one day before the scheduled matches. The viral infection led to Gavin damaging his oesophagus and trapping air in his chest, leaving him bed ridden in hospital in Germany for 5 days. A dramatic turn for the worse and an unfortunate way to end November for Gavin. Luckily enough Gavin’s team managed to come through with wins in both matches even in his absence. The Dublin man was quoted ‘It was awful timing really, not only was it a double match weekend but it was also against two of the weaker teams in the division, I would have been confident to drive my personal score up and now I sit at 6:6 with one match against two of the strongest players in the league left’. Very frustrating for Maguire indeed and we’ll see how he gets on in that match in December, good luck!

Following on from that, as usual we stay in Germany to check in on Zak Wilson. This month Zak was involved in three matches for his club Hannover 96 against, SC Marklohe, SSV Neuhaus and SG Schwartz-Weiss Oldenburg. In each of the three contests Zak’s team came out on top in 9-6, 9-6 and 9-3 victories respectively. As for Zak, against Marklohe Zak had a fairly straightforward day, in his first he lost in his own words a ‘clinical three nil loss’. The loss came against Nikolai Marek who is a former second Bundesliga player, so no shame there. In the second Zak was involved in a 3-2 win but stated he was always confident of getting the win. In the second team SSV Neuhaus 9-6 Zak was extremely unlucky not to take a scalp aganst the team’s number one Florian Reinecke, after having a match ball Zak just couldn’t get over the line and lost out 3-2, a missed opportunity. Against the teams number 2 Zak was assured as ever in his second match running out a 3-0 winner against Niklas Beliaev. Lastly, in the third team match of the month Zak got another two wins on the board for his team and his personal balance. A 3-1 over Andre Stang the number one and a 3-0 over Hendrik Z’Dun. Zak told us that in his first ever match in Germany he lost against these team and the same players. He said he was ‘delighted to get his revenge and put another two wins on the board’. The Glenburn man goes into December with a super score of 12:4 and his team sits in third position in the league with a game in hand against the league leaders, December should be interesting!

Our last player to visit, Paul McCreery in Belgium. Paul was in action again for C.T.T Tiège in Division 1 of the Belgian League, this time against Rooigem-Gent A. With Tiège vying for promotion to the Super Division, every match is proving critical even at this early stage of the season. Belgian League plays with a slightly different format to Germany and France, the players play four singles per match provided that match goes that far. Paul got off to a good start this time with decisive 3-0 win over Jan-Pieter Corteel. Unfortunately, he followed up a convincing win with a convincing loss losing to Ken Waegeman 3-0. The trend continued, Paul won his next match against Peter Nijs 3-0 but followed up against David Henkens in a 3-2 deuce in the last thriller loss. The rest of the team didn’t live up to expectation and the team were victims of a 5-11 defeat. ‘Although I wasn’t overly happy with my 2/4 wins this weekend, I can feel my level improving and have a clear idea of what I need to work on before my next matches. Also, if we can win our 2 home matches in December, we can still leave ourselves well positioned for promotion coming into the second half of the season.’ A quote directly from Paul and with two matches left in December, I look forward to hearing about Paul’s steady progression back to top shape!

                That’s it for another month, another successful month for the Irish players out in Europe and I look forward to writing about their exploits in December before they take a well earned and probably not too long, break over Christmas. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading the European Round Up and if you have any questions for the players please don’t hesitate to comment or send them in to the office and we’ll endeavour to include them in the next article. Until next time!