Ormeau settle for a draw in Premier British League opener

All level as Ormeau Make Debut in Premier Division of Senior British League

Belfast, 16th October 2017.

Ormeau Table Tennis Club recently jumped at the opportunity to play in the Premier Division of the Senior British League – the pinnacle of table tennis in the UK.  However, Ormeau drew a tough opener against last year’s champions Drumchapel (Glasgow) in the first away match of the season.

A strong Ormeau team made the trip, including three-time National Champion Paul McCreery, two-time National Champion Gavin Maguire, professional Ashley Robinson and three-time singles ITTF World Cadet Tour winner Owen Cathcart.  They were guided under the watchful eye of coach Keith Knox.

Drumchapel fielded an experienced team with Scottish international Craig Howieson and English international David McBethalong along with Victor Guang Shi and Sepehr Bidari.

Ormeau got off to a slow start going 2-0 down with Robinson losing to McBeth 3-1 in a close game where he was 2-1 down but lead 10-6 in the 4th end but couldn’t do enough to close out the English international.  McCreery, just home from a trip to the US, was suffering from the effects of jet-lag.  He fought hard on the day but Howieson took the match 3-0 leaving Drumchapel 2-0 up.

The second set of matches involved Ormeau’s home talent Owen Cathcart and Irish international Gavin Maguire.  At only fifteen years old, Cathcart has already gained much international experience and this showed as he did not look phased after dropping the first set (4-11).  He came back to the table looking composed and motivated.  Guang Shi found himself under a lot of pressure and Cathcart was able to close out the game 3-1.  Maguire started his match against Bidari in great spirits, winning the first two sets 11-8, 11-4 but narrowly lost out on the third 10-12.  He maintained his composure and played a strong fourth set to win 11-5 and taking the match 3-1.

With the overall score level at 2-2 club coach Keith Knox could sense that this game was not going to be controlled by current champions Drumchapel and, with four singles matches remaining, there was everything to play for.

The third set of matches involved McCreery and Robinson against McBeth and Shi.  Robinson, just home form his training base in Sweden on Friday, showed his class by playing outstanding attacking table tennis to make quick work of Guang Shi, winning 3-0 (11-3, 11-4, 11-6).  McCreery did not look his usual self as he lost to experienced professional David McBeth 3-0 (11-9, 11-2, 11-4).

The score remained level at 3-3 going into the last set of matches with final pairings of Cathcart facing Bidari and Maguire facing Drumchapel team captain and Scottish International Craig Howieson.

Cathcart could not have handled his first premier league outing any better by producing another flawless game beating Bidari 3-0 (8-11, 5-11, 7-11). Ormeau now had the upper hand with the scoreline at 4-3 and only one match remaining.  Through sheer will and determination Maguire battled his way to take the first two sets off Howieson, but Howieson took the third 11-7 then continued to gain momentum in the fourth, pushing Maguire off the table to bring the scores level.  Ormeau’s hopes of a win were finally dashed as Howieson took fifth set 11-6.

Nevertheless, this was a massive achievement for Ormeau on their Premier Division debut.  Describing this valuable draw against last year’s champions, team coach Keith Knox said, “this has been a fantastic start for us in the Senior British League.  We came close to winning against the title holders on their home turf, so we’re looking forward to our first home fixture against Scotland’s number two team, North Ayreshire, in Belfast on 11th November.”

Ormeau next play at their home venue (113 The Mount, Belfast, BT5 4ND) on Saturday 11th November at 2pm.  Come along if you would like to see top-level table tennis action from the Premier Division of the Senior British League being played in Belfast for the very first time.