As the dust begins to settle following a thrilling 2016 Butterfly Irish Junior National Championships, we must reflect on what was an excellent event at the National Basketball Arena.
Mia O’Rahilly Egan was the big winner over the weekend, as the Griffeen Valley TTC player won an unprecedented double of titles following successes in both the U15 and U18 Girls events,
In the Under 18 Girls, she advanced to the final following a hard fought group stage, before accounting for the ever tough Rebecca Finn (Ulster) in the semi-final 3-2. In the final she faced Ballincolligs Chloe O’Halloran, who had overcome the fancied Katie McGlone in the penultimate round in a close encounter. But in the final there was no stopping Mia. After recovering from a big deficit to take the 1st set in deuce, she went through the gears to claim her first Junior National title.
The Cornilleau sponsored played wasn’t finished there though. On Sunday she went into the U15 Girls event as top seed and heavy favourite. She didn’t disappoint, as she ruthlessly cut through the field before getting the better of the ever difficult competitor, Zofia Wawrzyniak, in the final.
Mia O’Rahilly Egan is now a double National Champion!
The Griffeen Girl wasn’t the only one to cause a big stir over the weekend, however, as a total of three players successfully defended their National Championship crowns – an outstanding feat.
The first of these was the ever-improving Connacht star Thomas Joyce. He went into the U13 Boys event as top seed, but was never going to have it easy in a notoriously competitive age group. Thomas wasn’t to be halted though, as he powered past Griffeens Dillon Byrne in the semis, before overcoming Dillons club mate and 2nd seed, Art Mclaughlin, in a gripping 5 set final encounter. This was possibly the match of the day, with both players showing a high level throughout.
The next player to successfully pull off a National Championship defence was another Connacht youngster, as now it was the turn of Thomas’ training partner, Natasya Barry, to show her quality. In a very open category, their were a number of potential winners, but there was no stopping Natasya as she thrived on the memories of last years success to retain her crown. In the semis, she overcame the talented 9 year-old Sophie Earley in straight sets, putting in an extremely assertive performance. She then faced Glenburns Nicole Scott, who was showing good form of her own following an impressively crafted, semi-final win against top seed Silke Heinen of Leeside TTC.
In the final though, there was no stopping the girl from Athlone, as Natasya was relentless in her attack, running out a straight set winner.
Finally, Saturday saw yet another player defend a national title as Zak Wilson swept all before him in a typically dominant display of Table Tennis. The TV Hude man was showing a top level following a successful debut season competing in the German League. In the semi final, he overcame Ryan McConkey (Ulster) in convincing fashion, setting up a showdown with 2nd seed and International team mate Alexander Gillen. Earlier, Gillen progressed to the final in similar fashion, as he sailed through the event before battling past fellow UCD club-mate Charlie Fitzgerald in the semis.
In the final, both players showed why they were the fancied pair coming into the event, as they put on a high quality contest for the onlooking crowd. In the end, Zak ran out a 3-1 winner, showing that bit more at the tight stages, while Alex will perhaps rue some missed chances. Massive credit to the Belfast boy here, as he defended his National title in true warrior-like fashion.
On Sunday, while Mia was making her way towards the double in the U15 Girls, the U15 Boys was boiling up nicely. Again, the top seed wasn’t to be stopped here, as Sweden based Jonatan McDonald followed up his Ulster Open success as he made his way towards becoming an Irish National Champion for the first time. En route to the final, Jonatan overcame Art McLaughlin in straight sets before facing off with U13 winner, Thomas Joyce. Thomas was showing some excellent form himself, as he took out the 2nd seeded Conor Nugent in straight sets in his semi.
In the final though, there was no stopping Jonatan, he was that bit stronger in each department as he powered past his young opponent in three straight sets.
In the Para Singles, the two big names, Paddy Vaughan and Conor O’Callaghan faced off in the final match for the right to become National Champion. Despite being in great form, having reached the U15 quarter final, Paddy had no answers this time around, as his International team-mate proved a bit too strong on this occasion, running out a 3-1 winner, meaning Conor O’Callaghan is the 2016 Para Singles Junior National Champion!
Click here to visit the Munster web-site for photos of all the prizewinners and lots of action from the weekend.
Participants in the Girls’ U-11 “Hopes” event
Entrants in the Boys’ U-11 “Hopes” Event