Ireland Take Two Wins at Worlds

Keith Knox

Update from Moscow – World Team Championships

Group I

Following a mixed start to Group I, with one win and three losses, Team Ireland still had an outside chance of qualifying into the top half of Division 3 going in to the last group game with Dominican Republic. This was always going to be a difficult task for the Irish, as in Ju LIN, the Caribbean island nation has one of the World’s top 100 ranked players. LIN was in terrific form, defeating Keith KNOX in straight sets to put the Dominicans one up. MCCREERY was next into the fray for Ireland and despite dropping the first set, he recorded a 3-1 victory over VILA BATISTA, who is 250 places ahead of McCreery in the World Rankings and a significant scalp to take. Murphy then put Ireland into a 2-1 lead, also defeating a significantly higher ranked player in Emil SANTOS. McCreery then got the opportunity to take on Ju LIN and will be delighted to have taken a set against him, eventually losing 3-1, to send the match into a winner take all decider. All the pressure was on Keith Knox, but VILA BATISTA made the most of his experience at this level to defeat KNOX and send the Irish into the bottom half of Division 3.

Play Offs – Positions 61-72

Team Ireland, having missed out on the chance to gain promotion, had to pick themselves up and hope that they could improve on their 2008 finish of 65th place. Their first play-off game was against the Central Asian Republic of Uzbekistan. The Uzbekis have a similar standing in World table tennis to the Irish, and this was expected to be a tense battle. In the first game, McCreery was pushed all the way by Grigory DRAGA, taking the 5th set 14-12 to put the Irish ahead. MURPHY was next up, and he will be disappointed to have lost, again in 5 sets, to KENJAEV, a player who is just outside the top 1000 in the World. Knox was then in to battle, still seeking his first victory of the tournament. He delivered his best performance of the event, defeating HOLIKOV to send the Irish into a 2-1 lead. McCreery was also pushed to 5 sets by KENJAEV, but managed to hold his nerve and close out the final set 11-7 to record a good win for Ireland.

After a gruelling match against the Uzbekis, Ireland were drawn against Algeria, who they had been beaten by in the Group stage without recording a single victory. Algeria were confident and decided to experiment with a different team selection, only Kherouf remaining from the group stage. Kherouf had beaten Daryl Strong in the first encounter, but Paul McCreery atoned for that loss with a powerful demolition of the Algerian, 11-8, 11-8, 11-4. Murphy was then defeated 3-1 by Larbi BOURIAH. Knox was picked again, and again he did not let anyone down, recording a fine victory over Aissa BELKADI, before McCreery put the final nail in the Algerians coffin with a five set victory over BOURIAH.

Ireland now play-off for positions 61-64, with South Africa first up this afternoon. This will be a stern test for the Irish, with COGILL and OVERMEYER both higher ranked than all of the Irish team.