Paul McCreery and Katie McGlone took the top honours over the weekend as both players were crowned Senior National Champions in DCU.
For McCreery, it was a familiar feeling to be back in the winners enclosure, having claimed the prestigious Eddie Limberg Men’s Singles title on three previous occasions in 2013, 2014 and 2015. This years win was perhaps the most sweet of all however, as the Belfast man entered the event somewhat under the radar due to the fine form shown by many of his closest rivals in recent times.
For 16 year old McGlone, it was her maiden National title and you could see how much it meant to the young UCD player when she eventually overcame the dogged 5 time champion, Ashley Givan, in a truly entertaining final match.
The showpiece Men’s and Ladies Singles events kicked off on Saturday morning with all players primed and ready for the challenges that lay ahead amongst the very best that Irish Table Tennis has to offer. On the men’s side, the Last 16 was the round that caused most of a stir. With all eight matches on show, there were comfortable wins for some of the big name seeds as Ashley Robinson, Paul McCreery, Gavin Maguire, Owen Cathcart and Zak Wilson all advanced with relative ease. However the first shock was soon to follow, as an inspired performance from Ballincollig TTC’s Dylan Grace saw him recover from a 0-2 deficit to overcome the recent Connacht Open Champion and 5th seed Ryan Farrell in a titanic 5 set encounter. On the adjacent table, another 5 setter had ensued, as 8th seed Alan Walsh was taken out by the in form Na Ning. Like Grace, Ning did it the hard way as he clawed back from 2 nil behind to take the win. This left the last of the quarter finals to finish up as experienced International Peter Graham and rising star Alex Gillen (S7) were embroiled in an epic, with the Ulsterman eventually overcoming his younger opponent to upset the seedings further as he won 11-9 in the 5th set.
The quarters saw some more compelling matches take place, with the pick of these involving the top seed Ashley Robinson as he was pushed all the way by a fantastic performance by Na Ning, who really rolled back the years as he threw everything at the pre tournament favourite. It was the Clogher native who prevailed in the end however, as he found enough to recover from a 2-3 deficit to claw his way back and take the match after 7 entertaining sets.
The other 3 quarters were more one sided, but compelling nonetheless! Zak Wilson produced a flawless performance to upset the seedings and take out Owen Cathcart in straight sets, as he signalled his intent right from the off, playing a high level of Table Tennis throughout. Paul McCreery was also in the mood as he beat Peter Graham in impressive fashion, 4-0. Defending champion Maguire didn’t have it all his own way though, as the buoyant Dylan Grace fought hard before going down 4-1.
The semi-final line up was a real treat for all in attendance as we witnessed a repeat of last years final with defending champ Maguire facing off against top seed Robinson. In the end, Maguire flourished as the apparent under-dog in this clash of the titans as he produced a flawless display to overcome his close friend over 6 sets to seal his place in a 5th National Final! Meeting him there was a determined McCreery, who kept his foot firmly on the peddle as he disposed of the battling Wilson by a 4-1 scoreline.
The stage was set for the final and despite a big fight, the dream of back to back titles wasn’t to be for Maguire. Paul was quick out of the blocks and using all of his speed and power, the Ulstermans resistance was too much for his Dublin counterpart. Gav fought valiantly, winning the 5th set to reduce his deficit to 3-2, but Paul was ready to step it up once more, as he reeled off a succession of points to pull away on route to claiming a fourth National Men’s Singles title!
As much as the men’s event was up in the air, the Ladies Singles was certainly wide open as a winner was very difficult to pick amongst the array of talent topping the seedings going into the event. As expected, the top four of McGlone, O’Rahilly Egan, Finn and Givan all advanced to the knockout stages unscathed. The first upset came from Group E, as 10 year old Sophie Earley continued her meteoric rise as she overcame the experienced Susan Hanlon (S5) on her way to topping the group.
When the knockout stage commenced another youngster made waves, as Glenburns defensive starlet Lucy Craig defeated Leinsters Claire Heller to advance to the quarter finals. With the rest of the matches going to seeding, we were all set for the fireworks to take off in the latter end of the draw.
Unfortunately for young Sophie, her debut senior event was halted by the ever impressive and always reliable Rebecca Finn in the quarter final, but the youngster didn’t go down without a good fight, losing out 4-1. Katie was then back in to face the dangerous Zofia Wawrzyniak of Leeside TTC. However despite Zofias best efforts, she couln’t stop the top seed as she started to stamp her authority on the Ladies draw. Defending champion and 5 time winner Ashley Givan was also in fine form, as she accounted for Hanlon to book her place in the penultimate round. She was soon followed by 2nd seed Mia, who was too strong for her young International team-mate Lucy Craig in their quarter final contest.
Like in the men’s, the Women’s semi-final line up was a real treat for all spectators in attendance. Ashley Givan faced the stern challenge of the in form Mia while Katie faced off against the ever present Rebecca Finn. It was Ashley who really impressed here as the Queens student didn’t let up as she got the better of her younger opponent by a 4-1 scoreline to seal her place in the final. On the next table a real battle was developing. Katie looked in command as she opened up a 3-1 lead over Rebecca, but the never say die attitude of the Belfast girl was evident for all to see as she fought back to level matters at 3-3. Here it was anyones match but this time it was Katie who delivered when it was all on the line, producing some of her finest play to run out as the winner and set up a repeat of last years final.
In the final, Katie was on a mission on this occasion. Her measured calmness combined with deadly attacking play was the key as she opened up a 3-1 lead over the 5 time champion. Ashley quickly fought back in the 5th, opening up a 9-5 lead. But Katie kept going, managing to pull herself back into the set. At 9-9, she played aggressively, churning out a match point in the process. From there she sealed the victory and a first National title forllowing yet another well time forehand counterloop.
Congratulations to Paul and Katie, our 2017 Irish Senior Men’s and Ladies National Champions!
To download and see the full results from all event please click here