Over the past two days, a small Irish contingent of 3 Men and 1 Woman has been battling away at the ITTF World Championships in Paris. The Irish players involved at this top class event are John Murphy, Paul McCreery, Gavin Maguire and Sarah Timlin.
First in to action in the Mixed Doubles Preliminaries were Murphy and Timlin, who were drawn against the Sri Lanka pairing of JAYASINGHA Nirmala and G. VITHANAGE Nuwani. This was a tough start for the Irish and they were eliminated in straight sets (-7, -7, -6).
In the Men’s Singles, Gavin Maguire started his competition in top form, displaying his quality with a fine win over KHUDAIBERDIEV Zhasur of Kyrgyzstan by 4-1. This set up a group decider with MIKUTIS of Lithuania. The Lithuanian is Ranked 355 in the World and showed his class with a fine performance, beating Maguire 4:1 to end his involvement in the Individual competition.
John Murphy was next into action and had the additional pressure of both of his matches being streamed all over the world via the ITTF website. He stormed into an early lead against Jamaica’s Webb, only to be pulled back in what was a nail-biting encounter that could have gone either way. Murphy however is no stranger to seven-set deciders and showed all of his experience to dominate the last set and claim a fine 4:3 win. This set up another group decider for the Irish contingent and all of Murphy’s Irish fans were glued to the live stream as he faced Canada’s THERIAULT who is ranked 379 in the World. It was not to be on this occasion for the battling Murphy and he lost out 4:1 and was eliminated from the event.
Paul McCreery, Ireland’s National Champion was the last remaining Irish player in to action on Day 1 and he was faced with a difficult draw with two ranked opponents in his way. He also faced Canadian opposition in PINTEA and they had a massive battle to claim the win, McCreery pushing hard all the way only to lose out in the 7th set. He later faced BEN ARI of Israel which was again a step too far for McCreery, losing out 4:1. After a phenomenal domestic season on both the Irish and UK Grand Prix circuit, McCreery will perhaps be disappointed with not claiming a victory here, but will have taken significant experience from this event.
In the Women’s event, making her bow at the Worlds was Sarah Timlin who enjoyed an excellent season at domestic level. Timlin first faced BOUCLARAS of Algeria – she battled hard but lost out again in a final set 4:3 match. Next us was yet another Canadian LUO – Canada seeming determined to end all Irish hopes in this tournament having also eliminated Murphy and McCreery. Timlin fought hard but LUO is a top 400 player and again was just too strong, claiming a 4:0 win.
Ireland’s last remaining hope in the event was the Doubles team of Maguire and McCreery. They were into action on the morning of Day 2 of the event, claiming a straight sets victory over the unranked Lebanese pairing to progress to the 2nd Round of the Preliminary competition. In the Round of 64, they faced a strong Bahrain pairing who just had too much for the Irish duo – a 3:0 loss bringing Ireland’s involvement in the competition to an end.