Cliff began playing table tennis in 1959 at the age of 16. Up to that time his main interest was cross country running, hence his great stamina.
He joined the Glenford Club in Newtownards where he was coached by Harry O’Prey, one of Ireland’s best ever defenders. Cliff made very rapid progress under his guidance and played in Division 1 of the Belfast & District League in the 1960-61 season. He was capped for Ulster in the 1962-3 season and won his first Irish cap in February 1963.
Cliff’s debut was against Australia in the Wellington Hall in Belfast. According to the report in the Belfast Telegraph he was well beaten by the more experienced Australian players but showed a lot of promise for the future. This was the start of a great international career which ended with his retirement in April 1973. His final match was against Japan in the Antrim Forum.
In his 10-year career Cliff accumulated 86 caps, played in 3 World Championships in Stockholm, Munich and Sarajevo, 3 European Championships in London, Lyon and Rotterdam and the Commonwealth Championships in Cardiff in 1973. He also played in English, Welsh and Scottish Opens and in a number of European League matches.
Cliff won numerous Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles titles throughout Ireland but it was only in his final seasons that he eventually won the Irish Singles title. It was perhaps fitting that he beat his great friend and rival Tommy Caffrey in a thrilling final (24/22 in the third set). He was unfortunate that he had to play for his whole career in the shadow of two of Ireland’s greatest players in Jim Langan and Tommy. On the other hand, he was fortunate to play with Jim and Tommy on what was arguably Ireland’s greatest ever team.
On his retirement Cliff became involved in Administration and coaching. He tragically died in a car accident in September 1975, returning from an Irish Junior training camp in Limerick.