Thanks to Brian Finn for providing this excellent article by Dave Gibbons – congratulations again to all involved in Ireland’s hosting of the Six Nations Veterans championships..
The Six Nations Veterans championships were aptly summarised by Joe Hickey (President, ITTA) as a wonderful weekend of table tennis played with spirit and passion. England came out on top of the medal honours, with a tally of 5 gold and 1 silver. They were narrowly prevented from a clean sweep by Scotland, who took gold in the Over 40 Men event. Scotland added silver to their tally in the Over 60 Team event, which positioned them in second place on the medal honours. Joint third place went to Wales and Ireland, who each netted two silver medals.
Comments from various players (names withheld in case of lawsuits!), which captured this spirit and passion, included:
Don’t bother bringing in the expedite rule, it’s an ambulance I need!
No matter where the ball is, it can be smashed.
Play from the heart.
Sure you wouldn’t see such good footwork in River Dance.
Session 1 Highlights
Over 40 Men:
Overall honours in the Over 40 Men event were effectively settled in the first session, when Scotland faced England (defending champions), with Scotland coming out on top (3-2). It was clear from the get-go though, that this was going to be a hard fought contest.
The first match between Scotland’s Brian Wright and Chris Clinton of England saw both players give onlookers a lesson in speed, spin and control. Having narrowly lost the first two sets, Brian hunkered down to come from behind in the third set to clinch it 12-10. Composure regained, Chris won out in the fourth set.
The second match, between Gerry Campbell and Adrian Pilgrim, continued in the same vein; with little to separate both players as they swapped point for point. Honours shared after the first two sets, Gerry pipped the third 13-11. Gerry started the fourth set with all guns blazing, quickly building a commanding 5-1 lead. Adrian clawed his way back to level the set at 8-8, but the Scot held his nerve to take the set 11-8.
With the overall match now level, victory in the doubles was paramount. The first set went to Scotland; a spectacular backhand smash by Brian, played from his toes, setting the tone for this do-or-die battle. The pendulum then swung in England’s favour, who took the second set 11-3. The change of ends for the third set marginally favoured Scotland, who clinched it 12-10. Buoyed up, the Scottish duo powered on to an 11-6 win in the fourth.
Exhibition table tennis continued in the fourth match, between Gerry and Chris. On paper the 3-0 result, in favour of Gerry, reads like a one-sided affair; however, a much closer reality was played out on the table.
Job done, with 3 victories now in the bag for Scotland, but still all to play for in the fifth and final match; a match that saw uncompromising play from both sides, with England coming out on top.
Also in the opening session, Wales gambled by not playing Tomasz in the singles against Isle of Man; a gamble that did not pay off and would ultimately cause Wales to lose out on finishing in the medals. A tense first match, saw Isle of Man’s John Magnall hold out to win 13-11 in the fourth set. The second match, another tense affair, also went to Isle of Man. A promise of a turn around emerged in the doubles, which saw Steve and Tomasz overcome a speed wobble in the 3rd set to win outright 3-1. Steve went on to win his next singles against Liam Chan, leaving the overall match delicately balanced at 2-2. With words of encouragement from Tomasz (“no pressure but you’ve got to win this one!”) still ringing in his ears, Mark fought hard, only to let the first set slip to 12-10 to John. John wrapped up this match in straights, putting paid to Wales’ gamble.
Over 60 Team:
Fortune favoured Scotland in their opening session against Ireland. Norman Nabney got Ireland off to a promising start with a 3-0 win over Pat Duffy. Geoff Salter levelled the score with a win over Martin Pickles by the same margin, before Audrey Robinson edged Ireland in front with a 3-1 win over Carol McLean.
The men’s- and mixed- doubles proved to be the turning point in the match. Geoff partnered Charlie Brown in a tense men’s doubles against Norman and Martin. With the first and fourth sets going to deuce and two other close sets, Scotland ground out a hard-fought 3-1 win. The mixed doubles match could not have been closer. Geoff and Carol took the first set 15-13; Norman and Audrey responded with an emphatic 11-5 win in the second. The Scots pairing quickly returned to form, taking the match with a 12-10 win in each of the next two sets.
With Scotland now in front for the first time, Geoff was under pressure to keep them there as he faced Norman in the penultimate match. Norman piled on the pressure, winning the opening set 11-7. Geoff kept his cool – taking the next 3 set to win match and give the outright win to Scotland.
Martin set about a damage limitation exercise in the final match against Pat. A straight sets win to Martin, kept the final result to a respectable 4-3 in favour of Scotland.
Session 2 Highlights
Over 50 Men:
On the back of a close 3-2 win over Scotland in the first session, Ireland’s over 50 men continued their positive play into their second session match against Guernsey. They established a commanding 2-0 lead against Guernsey going into the doubles, which they won in straights. Guernsey battled hard, but lost the remaining two singles.
Scotland’s Tam Lawlor had to work for every point to overcome the deft touches and long pimples of Wales’ Tony Collins. Coming from behind, Tam levelled the first singles match 2-2 and went on to take the final set, a tense 11-8. The second singles was equally tense, with Wales’ Ray Goulding taking the honours. A slow start in the doubles had Scotland on the back foot for the first time in this session. Wales fielded a steady combination, in Tony and Steve Eades, who held out to win 3-0. Fortune swung in Scotland’s favour in the next singles, a cracking (some might say niggly) four setter, which teed-up the session for a fifth-and-final match to decide the spoils. Having won the first two sets, a momentary lapse in concentration saw Ray slip into an 8-3 deficit in the third set. Digging deep, Ray clawed his way back to clinch it 12-10, giving Wales the overall win in the process.
England’s performance in the opening singles in this session, a convincing 3-0 win, set the tone for the remainder of their Over 50 Men match against Isle of Man. England came out on top without dropping a set in any of their matches; a result that belied Isle of Man’s efforts.
Over 40 Women:
Ireland’s Ros Carpenter played out of her skin in a humdinger match against Sanja Clements of England. In an open, hard-hitting match, Sanja took an early lead with an 11-7 win in the first set. As the crowd of onlookers gathered, Ros levelled the match with an 11-6 win in the second set. Sanja responded by winning the next set by the same margin. The intensity in play continued into the fourth set, which Ros won 11-7. Sanja sealed a hard-fought win, with an emphatic 11-4 win in the fifth set. Match of the day!
Session 3 Highlights
Over 40 Women:
Typical of the tournament, the Over 40 Women match between Ireland and Scotland was played against a backdrop of friendly banter, mixed with steely determination. Sharon got off to a strong start, taking the first set against Catherine O’Neill in her stride. The second set was a tense affair, with Catherine narrowly losing out 14-16. Catherine was unlucky in the third set, having been up 6-3, only to let it slip 11-9. Gillian kept up the momentum, grinding out a 3-0 win over Fiona Kinloch. The victory was sealed in the doubles, a close 3-1 win by the local pairing. With Gillian winning the next match, the pressure was on Fiona in the final singles to avoid a whitewash….she didn’t disappoint.
First blood went to England B against Guernsey; Rose Rainton winning her singles match against Sam Kershaw in straights. The second match was a lesson in ball control, peppered with explosive back- and fore-hand exchanges from both players. Guernsey’s Dawn Morgan held a slender lead throughout, taking her match against Marilyn Bawden 3-0. The Guernsey pairing kept up the pressure, taking the doubles match 3-1. Unperturbed, Rose battled hard to level the match with a 3-2 win over Dawn. The final match between Merilyn and Sam was yet another tense affair, with an 11-9 win in the fifth giving overall victory to England B.
Sonja Clements opened proceedings in the England A v Wales match with a 3-0 win over Marilyn Morgan. Sue Collier kept the pressure on Wales, winning her match against Regina Grech by the same margin. Another flawless display from the England duo saw them secure the win over Wales with a 3-0 result in the doubles, before going on to close out the remaining singles without dropping a set.
Over 50 Men:
Ireland picked up from where they left off with Keld Jaksland winning the first singles in straights against Wales’ Ray Goulding. Terry Dolan ground out a hard fought victory over Tony Collins, with a tenacious display to clinch the match in the fifth. No surprise, but the doubles match was an equally hard fought exchange, with Wales coming out on top. Having won the first set and going in front 9-3 in the second, Tony looked a dead cert to take the next singles and level the overall match. However, with a ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ attitude, Keld pulled out all the stops to take the second set 13-11, before going on to take the third and fourth sets 11-8 and 11-9, respectively. Terry closed out the final singles against Ray with another steely performance, which saw him clinch the first set 11-9, followed by 11-4 and 11-8 wins.
Session 4 Highlights
Over 60 Team:
Whilst England were comfortable winners of the Over 60 Team event, the battle for the runners-up position was a much closer affair, which was effectively settled in the fourth session when Scotland met Wales. Two of the first three singles matches went in Scotland’s favour. Geoff Salter and Charlie Brown furthered Scotland’s lead by taking the men’s doubles with a narrow 11-9 win over Tony Needham and Paul Collins in the fourth set. Paul partnered with Kath Mitchell Dawson to rekindle Wales’ hope with a win over Geoff and Carol McLean in the mixed doubles. Matters were settled in the next match between Geoff and Tony, which saw Geoff come out on top with a 13-11 win in the third set to position Scotland in an unassailable 4-2 lead. Paul narrowed the deficit to 4-3 in a close three-setter against Charlie in the final singles.
Over 50 Women:
Ireland’s Helena Dennett opened proceedings with a tight 12-10 win over Christine Watkins of Wales in the first set, before settling into her stride to win the second and third sets 11-4 and 11-5. Having been snapped up from the International transfer market by Wales, Irene McNevin was keen to get off to a good start. Point for point exchanges ensued in her opening singles against Teresa Devaney. At 6-6 however, Teresa stepped up a gear to take this and the next 2 sets. Helena and Teresa went on to take the doubles and the remaining singles.
Over 40 Men:
Pat McCloughan put Ireland into an early lead over Isle of Man, taking the opening singles against Liam Chan in straights. In the second singles, an uncharacteristic mistake on a forehand shot caused Kevin Mackey of Ireland to let the second set against John Magnall slip 11-9. Kevin soon regained the form he had shown earlier and closed out the match 3-1. A nervous start to the doubles saw Pat and Kevin Devaney drop the first set 5-11. Tactical advice from Kevin Mackey at the change of ends helped the Ireland duo regain their focus and go on to win the doubles in the fourth.
Having reached deuce in the first set against Liam, Kevin pulled out all of the stops to come from behind twice to win the set 15-13; going on to take the next two sets without fuss. Pat’s trademark slow forehand loop was called into action as he overcame a first set set-back to win the second. Fortune favoured John’s defensive style in the third, before the pendulum swung in Pat’s favour for the final 2 sets; clinching the fifth 11-8.
Over 70 Team:
Had there been a prize for sheer stamina, Ireland A would have been outright winners. Between them, Ted Mahaffy and Jim Sheehan contested over 1,800 points over the weekend! To the bitter end, both players gave it their all. Jim’s opening singles against Liam Perris of Ireland B typified the dogged determination exhibited by each of the over 70 teams. 2-1 down going into the fourth set, Jim eked out a 17-15 win to bring the match to a deciding fifth set, which went in Liam’s favour. Having levelled the match with a 3-0 win over Ron Drain, Ted partnered with Jim to take the doubles 3-1. Liam was unlucky not to level matters, losing the next singles 11-13 in the third set. Despite having victory over Ireland B already in the bag, Jim was determined to give the onlookers their money’s worth in the final singles match against Ron. True to form, Jim put in another five setter; this time coming out on top.
Over 50 Women:
The 0ver 50 Women event was not settled until the final session in which defending champions, Ireland, met England A. In the opening singles, Teresa Devaney came from behind to pinch the first set for Ireland against Sandra Rider 12-10. With dogged determination, Teresa urged herself on to take the second 11-9. Sandra responded by building an unassailable lead early in the third, winning it 11-7. Sandra retained this form for the start of the fourth set, but let it slip to allow Teresa draw level at deuce; it proved to be a temporary slip though, as Sandra held out to take this set 13-11. Buoyed on by the local support, Teresa kept a closer rein on proceedings in the fifth set, changing ends a mere point down. Neck and neck it remained until 8-8, when an unforced forehand error by Teresa gave Sandra the lead, which she held to win out 11-9.
Jenny Harrison levelled the scores for Ireland, winning a controversial singles match against Elaine Sayer. With the first set under her belt, Jenny faltered in the opening exchanges of the second set; despite battling hard to regain the lost ground, Jenny narrowly lost this set 9-11. The next set remained on a knife edge throughout, though Elaine pipped it 16-14. With so much at stake, it was not surprising that tensions on both sides were high; 7-10 down in the fourth set, Jenny drew on all of her reserves (and plenty of encouragement from her teammates to ‘stay focused’) to win the next 5 points in a row. Jenny kept up the pressure in the fifth, but let an early lead slip by the change. Patiently and with increasing consistency, Jenny worked her forehand attacking shots into the remaining rallies; eventually running out winner at 15-13.
There was little to separate both pairings in the doubles, with every point being hard fought for; each player putting in an impressive array of quality winners. The first set went to the Ireland duo, 16-14. England played a steady game to take the next three sets.
In a do or die singles, Teresa succumbed to Elaine’s patient play. A smashing cross court forehand earned Elaine an 11-9 win in the first set. Elaine won the next set 11-5. Unrattled, Teresa eked out an 11-3 win in the third, but Elaine sealed it in the fourth with an 11-6 win. Overall victory to England.