On Saturday the 19th of February Fivemiletown High School was the scene of drama and excitement as players and spectators gathered for the Fermanagh Senior Open.
Doubles was the first event on the cards and the first semi-final consisted of the “experienced” team of William Cherry and Norman Nabney versus the youthful pair of Jonathan Porter and Trevor Knox who had come out on top of a thrilling five setter against Leinsters Georgi Hubenov and Joshua Cooper in the quarters. The experienced pair would have the better of the youth on this occasion as they won in straight sets 11-7, 18-16 and 11-2. The other semi saw Ballymoney’s father and son pairing of Pawel and Dawid Sulkowski play Dariusz Zatylny and Tibor Pofok. Dariusz and Tibor won the first 11-8 and the Sulkowski’s pulled one back 13-11 but it was Dariusz and Pofok who retained composure and won the next two 11-7 and 13-11. This would leave a thrilling finale and it didn’t disappoint. Cherry and Nabney took the opening set 11-7 but an epic second set leveled it off as Pofok and Zatylny claimed it 18-16. They took this win with confidence and took the third 11-3, however, Cherry and Nabney settled themselves and won the fourth 11-8. Pofok and Zatylny pulled ahead in the fifth and couldn’t be caught as they claimed the title 11-5. This title was the start of a pretty good day for Tibor Pofok.
Next on the timetable was Class II. The groups saw a couple of upsets as Belfasts Ted Mahaffy beat second seed Mark McAllister. Non-seeded Dave Butler also claimed first in his group after a win against Gary Crawford. In the last 16 William Cherry had his chance to replay Dariusz Zatylny and after an electrifying match Willie came out on top 13-11 in the fifth. This win left him up against Gary Crawford whose early defeat to Dave Butler left him with a longer route to the final if he could succeed. Crawford would have the better of Cherry as he claimed a semi-final spot 11-8 in the fourth set. Gary then had to face Connacht’s Kariem Sabir who came through a tough quarter final against Atilla Mandler in five sets. The semi was tense with sets and points staying neck and neck the whole match, Sabir won the first but Crawford claimed the second, Sabir found form again to take the third but again Crawford pushed back taking the fourth, however Sabir’s determination to win allowed him see off Crawford 11-7 in the fifth. The other side of the draw saw both semi-finalists have to battle to get there, Tibor Pofok beat Pawel Sulkowski after losing the opening two sets 11-7, 11-3. His semi’s opponent was Keiron Burke who very nearly lost out to Larne’s Philip Jamison in a thrilling five setter in the last 16. Tibor had too much on Keiron as he claimed his finalist spot in straight sets. The crowd expected a thriller as Tibor and Kariem would face off in the final but Tibor showed a new found class to take the final in straight sets in what could be his last Class II event as he climbs the rankings.
Next were the main events of the day which were the Men’s singles and Ladies singles. In the Ladies the round robin saw Amanda Mogey and Ashley Givan both win against Wexfords Sabina Devereux and Fivemiletown’s Annalise Walker; this left the decider between Amanda and Ashley. Fivemiletown Academy’s Ashley Givan had the better of Amanda on the day, scoring a rare win over the Irish No.1 as she beat her in straight sets 11-8, 15-13, 11-7.
The Men’s event also provided some shock upsets and some very close calls, one nearly came from UCD’s Matt Finlay as he took fifth seed Wexford’s Brian Devereux to five sets but Devereux had enough to come back from 2-0 down to claim a quarter final draw with second seed Daryl Strong, another tight one and Brian very nearly had it but Daryl beat him in the fifth set, setting up a semi-final with third seed Mark O’Flynn. Mark too had a bruising run as he was taking to five by Ballymoney’s Dawid Sulkowski in the last 16. Daryl proved too strong for Mark as he claimed a spot in the final in straight sets. The other side of the draw saw number one seed and many peoples favourite for the title Peter Graham crash out in straight sets to the on form Tibor Pofok. Daryl continued his good run to claim the title(which he last won in 2002) with a fourth set victory over Tibor who put up a good fight in a closely contested match.
In the Under 21’s FMT’s 15 year old Ladies Champion had to play Eastpoints Mark O’Fylnn in the semi-final and this was one for the crowd. Ashley took the opener 11-7 but Mark looked on route to the final as he won the next two 11-8, 11-7, however Ashley was having none of it and took the match to a decider 11-7 in the fourth and some fiery topspin winners allowed her claim the match 11-5. Dawid Sulkowski came though the other side of the draw after defeating UCD’s ever improving Matt Finlay in straight sets. Givan determined to add to her cash pool took the title in three straight sets all ending 11-9.
The Veterans saw a couple of upsets in the groups but the major talking point being Ulsters Jay McAllister got a rub of the green in the fifth set as he bet number one seed Kariem Sabir. Jay continued this form as he beat evergreen Norman Nabney in an exhilarating five setter in the quarter-finals. That set up a semi with William Cherry but unfortunately for a popular Jay he was beaten in straight sets. The other semi provided plenty of drama as Kariem Sabir was set to face Pawel Sulkowski. Kariem stormed to an early lead as he took the first two sets 11-8, 16-14 it looked all but over but Pawel fought back taking the third 13-11, from this he went on to take the next two 11-7, 11-9. Pawel took this confidence on into the final as he took the title in straight sets.
The day concluded with the prize money being given out by ITTA secretary Ken Strong and FTTA Chairman Alec Gordon. The day ran very smoothly and Fermanagh Table Tennis Association would like to thank the players who attended for their support in this crucial annual fund raiser. They also would like to thank the Official ITTA Umpires especially Tournament Referee Tom Mitchell, also to Fivemiletown Annex for the help with the venue and Fivemiletown Academy for the running of a tuck shop and in turn to Carlton Cakes and Biscuits, Cootehill for supplying some tray bakes for them to sell. Finally to tournament sponsors Stiga, their agent Tommy Fitzgerald whose continuous support to FTTA is extremely appreciated.
Full results here