Gavin Maguire: Blog 4

Blog 4 – 2014!

                Since the last blog as usual, it’s been busy. The main thing that’s occurred is the restart of the German league after the mini break for the Christmas period. In this edition of the blog, I’m hoping to cover the beginning of the second half in German league along with the after effects of the Ping Pong event, a positive Munster Open and the build up to the National Championships.

Since coming back to Germany after the World Ping Pong Championships in London, I realised that going from table tennis to Ping Pong was quite an easy and enjoyable transition however, having played so much Ping Pong in the build-up the tournament and then moving back to table tennis, I found myself struggling.  I found simple elements of my game that had been there for years, now required some thought and attention. Serve and receive became a big factor again having being almost done away with in the Ping Pong model.  The weeks practise was quite a tough one getting back up to speed with the game I have grown up with. There was plenty to do to be ready for my first competitive table tennis match of the New Year that coming weekend. One thing that really helped this process was having my lifetime friend, Mark O’ Flynn coming out for the week following the tournament in London. He wanted to see the environment I was now living in, the players I was training with and of course experience the German league. Talking to people since that week’s training and living with Mark, I’ve found it quite hard to explain to people the positive impact just a little change like having a friend come out and practise with us can have. It’s only a small change to every day routine and it wasn’t as if I had to show Mark the ropes of how to behave or train as he is no stranger to the competitive world of table tennis but a strange sense of positivity ran through me that week, and I know I can speak for Ashley when I say he felt the same or maybe even better! Not only did Mark come out, enjoy a week’s training with us but he coached me in my 2 league matches that I had, Saturday and Sunday, I’ve always been more of a second half of the season kind of player but with Mark’s help my team won both matches and I was undefeated winning 3 out of 3 singles.

Leading on from a positive weekend in league, I was coming back home to play in one of my favourite events of the year, The Munster Open. Every year I thoroughly enjoy the event and I know that’s the case for almost all players involved, especially having the juniors involved and the staged finals it makes for a great event and I hope we have more like it in the future.  The tournament itself was set out with one of the highest standards an Irish ranking event has ever seen, Miroslav Horesji from Czech Republic ranked 240 in the world, Ryan Jenkins the 3 time winner, Gavin Rumgay the Scottish number 1 and Vladislavs Agurjanovs joined the already strong Irish field of players. For me, the tournament was a huge success, having beaten Irish number 1 John Murphy from 2-0 down in the quarter final which was a big win in itself, I went on to play Ryan Jenkins who I was now to play for the 3rd year in a row at the semi-final stage. This year, I knew my game had improved enough to challenge Ryan and I had already had some testing games with him at other events, this time I came out on top 3-1 with Mark O Flynn again the man in my corner! Paired against Horesji in the final I knew it was going to be a huge task, and just getting to the final was a massive result for me especially with the 2 previous wins so I could play slightly more relaxed in the final and take my chances. Unfortunately I went down in a 5 set battle 3-2, but I played some of my best table tennis in parts and I have no regrets. I hope I provided the home crowd with an entertaining match because the vocal support they gave me was just incredible, a memory I will have forever and I thank everyone who was a part of that. Looking back now on that tournament, it was great to finally get a career best win against Ryan, even though I’m sure he’ll come back next year even stronger looking for a 4th title, it was a massive confidence boost for me. Especially performing on home soil, which as I’ve stated before with the added pressure of playing full time can be one of the biggest challenges. The confidence I’ve gained from The Munster Open makes me feel my time in Germany is worth it, that hard work is slowly paying off and gives me motivation to continue down the road I’m going for the time being.

At this time of year there is only one thing on the mind of every player of any level or any age, The National Championships. The Nationals is simply the biggest tournament of the year in terms of importance, pressure and prestige. Everybody is training hard for the event, looking to impress and maybe come home with a National title. In the build up to the event there has been no major changes in our training schedule in Germany however we are trying to focus a little more on serve receive exercises to try and make training a little bit more match orientated. The German league then keeps us sharp in terms of actual match practise, so in other words its business as usual in the build-up but there’s always that hanging feeling in the back of your mind about what’s coming up and trying to get everything right in time for it. As big as the Nationals is, there is a bigger picture; The World Championships. I’m delighted to be able to say I’ve been selected to represent Ireland in Tokyo for the World Team Championships along with flatmate Ashley Robinson, Paul McCreery and junior number 1 Ryan Farrell, with John Murphy as our captain. The team is made up of three players but I feel it’s a perfect scenario that now we will travel with a 4th player as cover, added atmosphere on the bench and a new team dynamic to explore. Personally, I feel it’s going to be a fantastic experience for Ryan Farrell, and a huge achievement for him to become part of the senior team while still at junior level. It shows the rest of Ireland’s aspiring young players that with hard work and consistent performance it is possible to break into the senior team. The World Championships is the pinnacle of any table tennis players career (excluding the Olympics) and having stayed in division 3 by the skin of our teeth two years ago in Dortmund, I believe this year we can really push for a high finish in the division now that Paul is as strong as ever and myself and Ashley have been playing full time ever since, along with Ryan making sure we up our game or he’ll be taking our place. The World Championships in Tokyo was the deciding factor in my decision to come to Germany so I will be working as hard as I can for the next couple of months in order to be in peak condition for the event and hopefully we can get a big result for Irish Table Tennis!

With the Nationals beginning this weekend, I’m certain the next blog will contain a section devoted to the outcome and thoughts surrounding the event. After that it will generally be focussed on the road to the World Championships mainly about preparation training, preparation events and German League. Anything else that readers would like to be covered or discussed, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll make sure to do my best in including whatever it may be! Thanks for reading.