A changed format for this year saw a combined Interprovincial Championships, with the Junior and Senior events merged onto one weekend in a central venue. Saturday saw a busy day of Senior action, with Leinster and Ulster expected to be the main protagonists in all three categories, Veteran, Senior and U21.
With Connacht choosing not to put out a team in the U21 category, the title was tied up after two sessions, as Leinster, backboned by Conor Gallagher and Katie McGlone, despite conceding two points due to a missing player, got off to a strong start against Ulster, winning out 6-4. This was followed up with an 8-2 win over Munster in Round 2, with Ulster, with an unbeaten Matthew Cherry, winning out 6-1 against Munster in the final round to confirm the 1-2-3 placing.
In the Veterans event, hot favourites Ulster, lead by Daryl Strong, who is yet to be beaten in this event, were full value for their billing with straightforward victories over Connacht and Munster, following their closely contested but ultimately straightforward win over Leinster.
The Senior Championships again saw a favoured Ulster team, lead by Zak Wilson and Sophie Earley, confirm their status with a 6-3 win over Leinster in the first round, followed by victories against Connacht and Munster, with Leinster finishing in 2nd position. Unfortunately, the Senior Championships concluded prematurely following a player being taken ill in the hall, and great credit is due to the UCD Staff and the table tennis volunteers involved in providing resuscitation and treatment, in advance of the arrival of paramedics. With the early termination of the event, the presentation ceremony did not take place as planned, out of respect for the circumstances.
The Tommy Caffrey Award for Player of the Tournament was shared on this occasion, awarded to Gillian Richardson from the Ulster Veterans team, and Dillon Byrne from the Leinster Senior team, both players with excellent wins against higher ranked opposition.
The overall Junior Championships title looked likely to be a fight between Ulster and Leinster, albeit that Munster were very much in the picture in Cadet Girls and Junior Girls, while a dangerous Connacht team had every chance in the Mini Cadet Girls category. Despite a huge fight from the Munster Junior Girls in the 2nd round, Ulster, lead in typical battling fashion by Sophie Earley, managed to come through on a 5-4 scoreline, a result which decided the Junior Girls top 2. In Mini Cadet Girls, Ulster also battled through for the gold, their toughest match coming against Connacht, despite the best efforts of Rachel Taylor in claiming 3 points for the Connacht team. However, Ulster were unable to claim a clean sweep of girls titles, with a Silke Heinen lead Munster taking the Cadet Girls title.
In the boys events, it was always looking like it would be a shootout between Leinster and Ulster in all three boys categories, albeit that Munster had a good young team in Mini Cadet, who put it up to the other provinces, while Connacht would count themselves unlucky in going down 5-4 to Ulster in the Junior Boys. The final round of matches in all three boys events would decide the title, with both Leinster and Ulster unbeaten, and it was Leinster who took the Mini Cadet Boys gold, with Gellert Moravcsik and Fionn Hickey going unbeaten, followed shortly afterwards by the Junior Boys with a win for Leinster, Art McLaughlin and Alan Pattison also going unbeaten.
The Cadet Boys event was still going, and would decide the destination of the Barna Shield, with Leinster and Ulster very evenly matched. However, with Dillon Byrne remaining unbeaten in the Cadet event, Leinster closed out the win with the final match of the Championships.
With Number 1 ranked players remaining unbeaten in almost every category, there were a wide number of candidates for the Colum Slevin Award for Player of the Championships, however it was Maitiu Heckmann from Leinster who took the Award, following his performance in the match that proved decisive both for Cadet Boys gold as well as the overall Shield.
With three gold medals to Leinster, ahead of two for Ulster and one for Munster, Leinster took the Victor Barna Shield for the overall Junior Interprovincial title.
Thanks to the Referees and Umpires for their time and efforts at the event, as well as to our aforementioned volunteers and UCD Staff for their response to the emergency in the hall. Special thanks to the volunteers from the Connacht and Leinster Branches who assisted with hall cleanup and clearance at the end of the event.