Malmo Open 2024

The Malmo Open Parasport event took place between the 9th and 11th February in Sweden where Ireland sent twelve players compete in the table tennis event alongside representatives from Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and the UK.  This event is an annual highlight for our growing and improving Para Development Squad and this year was no different.  

Friday was the first day of action with the doubles event being played in the morning. Each of the Irish pairings acquitted themselves well and the rose to the challenge of the difficult doubles format. The best result of the standing doubles event was Seán Geoghegan and Aaron Mellows who lost out in the quarter final to the pairing of former Paralympic champion Will Bayley and Class 7 women’s European bronze medalist Bly Twomey who were representing Brighton TTC. The Irish team did however pick up their first medals of the competition in the Wheelchair doubles event where Gerry Commins and Kevin O’Callaghan teamed to take silver in the Plate final, losing out to another Brighton TTC pairing of Class 5 Paralympic bronze medalist Jack Hunter-Spivy and Jack Silberston.  

Friday afternoon saw the group stages of the Performance singles event which saw players placed in ‘banded’ groups based on ability level. Each of the Irish players put in some solid performances with progression to the knockout stages on Saturday morning being achieved by many. The highlight of the knockout stages was undoubtedly Sam Brennan who came through some tight five set matches to take the gold in the Performance 2 event defeating Swedish opposition in the final. Aaron Mellows and Seán Geoghegan lost out in the quarter finals of the higher Performance 1 event while Caoimhe Folan won a silver medal in the Performance 3 Plate losing in a tight five set final.  

Saturday afternoon saw five Irish players compete in the Youth (u15) and Junior (u19) boys events. Once again, each of the lads gave very good accounts of themselves with successful results being achieved. In the Junior boys event, Aaron Mellows secured a bronze medal, while Jude Sheldon took home the gold medal in the Plate event. Notably Jude completed a fantastic comeback win from 2-0 behind to win 3-2 in his plate semi-final match. Kevin O’Callaghan won his second silver medal of the tournament in the Junior Wheelchair event, while Sam Brennan went one step further to add a second gold medal to his collection in the U15 boys defeating Victor Gran from Sweden 3-1 in the final.  

The team was buoyed by the great success of the tournament and heading into the last events of the weekend; the Para Class events, confidence was high. Once again, the Irish team fought and competed well against the international opposition. In Class 1-3, Alicia Winter had two excellent wins to progress to the knockouts but bowed out with a loss in the quarters. In the same event, Kevin O’Callaghan performed brilliantly to take home the gold medal in the Plate and his third of the tournament overall. Gerry Commins was close to repeating that success in the Class 4-5 Plate final but had to settle for silver after defeat in a close match to Jack Silberston from Brighton. Positive results from the Irish players continued in the standing classes with Patrick Sweeney, Aaron Mellows and Patrick McCormack all qualifying for the knockout stages of Class 11.  Aaron progressed the furthest and was unfortunate to be drawn against the eventual winner Tobias Hansson. Aaron fought hard but lost out to Hansson in the quarter final. In the Class 11 plate, Aoife Kelly took home a fantastic bronze medal.  In Class 6, Des Ryan progressed as group winner, however missed out on a medal in the knockout stages. Caoimhe Folan in Class 7 came up just short of the medals in the plate event despite some good performances along the way. Sam Brennan continued his excellent form across the weekend to qualify from his Class 8 group but unfortunately a third medal was out of reach with defeat in the Last 16 while Jude Sheldon took him silver in the Class 8 plate. Seán Geoghegan was the most successful player on the final day of play with a run to the final of Class 8 losing out to the Class 8 World Number 3 and former European Champion Emil Andersson of Sweden in the final.  

In total the Irish team of twelve came home with thirteen medals and a clear improvement on results from last year with more players progressing to the knockout stages of events than previously. There is no doubt that the results achieved over the weekend highlight the bright future and potential of Irish para table tennis and each player conducted themselves excellently both on and off the table. A big thank you must go to National Para Coach Sam Logue and coaches Mick Cunningham and Tara Fusco who accompanied the team whose advice and support to the players was invaluable throughout the tournament. Thanks also to Para Managers Gavin Maguire and Eoin Kelly along with Sam for their continued support and development of the Para programme. Finally a special mention must go to the travelling parents and supporters whose support to the programme and dedication to their children cannot be understated and helped contribute to a fantastic weekend enjoyed by everyone. A compilation of videos taken across the weekend by Eoin Kelly to highlight the experience of the squad will be available to view on the Table Tennis Ireland YouTube channel soon so keep your eyes peeled for that! 

The development squad look forward to next year and once again trying to build upon results and performances.