Most of you reading this article will be aware that many of Ireland’s finest table tennis players not only compete on the domestic circuit, but also in various leagues across the UK and Europe. Table Tennis has always been a minority sport and in order for our best players to reach greater heights they have had to compete and live abroad – a shame but a reality for now. With this in mind we have decided to compile a monthly report, providing a round-up from all of our players in action for club teams in leagues around Europe. The article will strive not only keep our followers up to date with how our players are performing away from home but also to highlight the extreme dedication, commitment and work ethic they all display on a weekly basis in order to further their table tennis careers. The article will focus solely on Ireland’s high performance players that are playing in league competition outside of Ireland at Senior Level. This month’s edition includes updates from Commonwealth hero Ashley Robinson in France, current national champion Gavin Maguire in Germany and former junior number ones Ryan Farrell and Zak Wilson in Sweden and Germany respectively.
Ashley Robinson –
Ashley Robinson is currently our only full time professional table tennis player with the exception of Alexander Gillen who lives and trains in France while attending school. Ashley is playing in National 1 which is the 3rd Division in France in a team made up of 4 players. Coming off the back of a sprained ankle Ashley’s first weekend in France proved to be challenging. He hadn’t practised for one week due to the injury and in any other scenario he would have been resting it that weekend. Battling on, Ashley’s flight was cancelled! After a late night flight to London, an overnight stay in the airport, an early flight to Montpellier and a bus to Nimes Ashley was finally at the match destination. In his own words he described the whole travel process as ‘a complete disaster’. Ashley fought valiantly through his injury concerns and tired body and mind losing to French player Killian Tormos and beating Bruno Parietti. Luckily for Ashley, it didn’t affect the team result and they came through 8-1 winners. The Clogher native’s second match was a much less stressful experience and with all travel running smoothly Ashley played some of his best Table Tennis. He beat Mounaim Tirselt 3-2 in the first game in what was an ‘epic’ according to Ashley. Following the first epic, Ashley faced none other than Argentina’s evergreen Liu Song, a former top 30 World Ranked player! With an unusual style of attacking forehand and defensive backhand close to the table, Liu proved a tough opponent however, matching him point for point throughout Ashley saw himself at 2-2 only to lose out by the narrow margin of 11-8 in the last set. A real indication of just how good Ashley Robinson can be and how high a level the young Ulsterman can compete at. An exciting season looms large for this man, and I’m excited to write about his progress!
Gavin Maguire –
Our national champion previously lived in Germany but residing in Belfast now, he continues to travel to Germany for matches to aid his own development. Playing for Medizin Magdeburg in the ‘Regionalliga’ in Germany which is technically the 4th division (changes to league format/layout) in Germany. Realistically however, Regionalliga is the third tier of German Table Tennis. Playing as the team’s number 2 in a team of 6 players Gavin is at the highest division and position he has played in his career to date having been promoted from Oberliga last season. The man himself was quoted saying ‘I’m looking forward to a new challenge this year and being able to challenge myself against some top players can only make me a better player myself’. Gavin has opened his account in the Regionalliga with a score of 1:3, 1 win 3 losses. As a team Magdeburg have won one and lost one of their opening games in the Regionalliga. Gavin’s sole win came against Argentinian national team player Sanchi 3-2 having faced two match balls in the last set. His losses came against top Argentinian prospect Cifuentes 3-1, highly rated German youngster Nick Neumann-Manz (A former training partner of Gavin’s) and finally, Krmachek of the Czech Republic. Krmachek is a classic defender chopping from both wings and a former sparring partner of Irish great Colum Slevin. Krmachek is formally a top 70 World ranked player and the best player in the division according to former Chilean national coach Alberto Ammann. The UCD man has reputation of punching above his weight against defensive opponents and lived up to this reputation having led 9-8 in the 5th and final set only to lose out 11-9, a missed scalp indeed! Regionalliga has proved to be a real test of Gavin’s ability but coming up against international opposition week in, week out is the perfect elixir for a steady improvement.
Ryan Farrell –
Ryan Farrell is operating from home this year, starting university life at DCU in Dublin after a year in Sweden playing and training in Eslov (Ashley Robinson’s base). Last year Ryan played in Division 2 in Sweden which is the 4th league after Pingis, Superettan and Division 1. This year Michael Maze’s former coach and now coach at Eslov, Peter Sartz gave Ryan the opportunity to play for Eslov in the highly esteemed Superettan (2nd highest). His first match on the big stage was against the world famous ‘Angby’. Ryan lost his two matches 3-1 versus Sebastien Loso and Daniel Schaffer, two very strong and experienced players. On reflection on his games Ryan was quoted saying ‘this was one of the best matches that I`ve played. I felt very comfortable throughout the match and this allowed me to play some of my best table tennis. In some of the vital moments, I think I lacked that little bit of aggression which might have enabled me to take the matches to five sets’. In Ryan’s second match they came up against what he describes as ‘a very strong team’ and this proved to be the case. After an illness struck one of Ryan’s team members Helshan Weerasinghe they were up against it and only getting one opportunity to get a point on the board Ryan was unable to and lost out 3-0. Ryan said ‘I was really disappointed with how I played in this match because I made a lot of simple mistakes which allowed my opponent to win a lot of easy points without having to work that hard’ Irrespective of results, a fantastic opportunity all the same for young Ryan to immerse himself in games at the highest level, he is fighting for progression! Well done Ryan!
Zak Wilson –
Zak Wilson plays Hannover 96 in the Oberliga, the 4th tier of German table tennis. Zak is also embarking on a new experience at a new club, a higher division and a stronger region of Germany but again, what another great challenge for one of our most promising young players. In what we hope will prove to be a breakthrough season for young Wilson he has kicked off in a style typical of the man himself, solidly. With a team win and a team draw, Zak holds his head high with a personal balance of 3:1, 3 wins 1 loss. Win against Kosterelioglu of Turkey 3-0, Jan Holzendorf and Tim Fricke of Germany 3-0 and 3-1. His sole loss Zak stated that ‘In Germany you come up against a lot of unusual styles and I find that quite challenging but it’s all about getting the wins’. With experienced number one Richard Hoffmann in the team alongside Zak to guide him on his path in the Oberliga, Zak is surely in the right place to help with his consistent improvement. With plans to embark on a full time career next year, Zak is definitely moving in the right direction!
That’s all of our player’s results for the month of September and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the first edition of our monthly European Round-up, as I know I’ve enjoyed writing it. As more players kick off their league season next month we have an exciting next edition in store for you. It’s great to finally be able to highlight the players striving to improve their Table Tennis in a positive way. As the months go on we hope you become more familiar with our star players and their efforts abroad. Next Month’s edition will also include updates from 3 time National Champion Paul McCreery, Ballincolig’s Alan Walsh in Sweden and former National Champion Emma Ludlow in Britain.
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