For the fourth consecutive year, the INEC/Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney played host to the Munster Open. Tournament Referee Con O’Céadaigh oversaw nearly a thousand matches over the three-day event.
With a €1000 first prize in the Men’s Singles, a high quality entry was expected, and as soon as the tournament began on Friday evening, it was clear that there was serious talent in the arena. There were few surprises in the group stages, none of the top 16 seeds slipping up. In the knockout, things continued largely as expected, with only three players outside the top seeds reaching the last sixteen. And the quarter final line-up was as seeded, which resulted in the amazing spectacle of four simultaneous quarter finals played simultaneously as a warm-up to the Staged Finals on Saturday night. For the first time, the finals were streamed live to allow the few people in Irish table tennis who were not in Killarney the opportunity to see some fantastic table tennis.
Highlights of the quarters included Gavin Maguire’s fifth-set decider with John Murphy, and Gavin followed this up with a great 3-1 defeat of last year’s winner, the Welsh Wizard Ryan Jenkins.
Was it too much to hope that Gavin could take home the Munster Open Title? He certainly gave it his best shot, and a somewhat partisan crowd urged him to his best, but in the end he had to give way to the brilliant Miroslav Horejsi in the final set of an exciting final!
In the Ladies’ Singles, “local” interested ended when two Munster players, Deirdre Murphy and Chloe O’Halloran (both Leeside), lost in successive rounds to the top seed and eventual winner, Charlotte Carey. Charlotte met another of the visiting contingent in the final and was a 3-1 winner over Cherith Graham from England.
The junior events started with the Cadet Boys and Girls on Saturday morning. Dylan Grace (part of a large Mountrath squad) had a great win over top seed Donic’s Evin McGovern, and this led to a 2 v 3 pairing in the final, with Charlie Fitzgerald (UCD) overcoming Brian Dunleavy (Kilkelly) in a five-set thriller. In the Girls’, Munster player Kerry O’Mahoney (Kinneigh) threatened to upset the odds, but Kate Whelan (Mountrath) beat her 3-1 in the semi before losing to Rebecca Finn in another match that went all the way.
The Under-11 Boys’ was an all-Connacht affair, with Thomas Joyce beating David Taylor in a hard-fought match. In the Girls’ event, Silke Heinen (Leeside) took Munster’s first win at the event, beating Natashya Barry (Athlone) in straight sets.
In all three doubles events, it was the top two seeds who contested the finals, Lynch-Dawson & Timlin won the Ladies’, and Ryan Jenkins partnered Ashley Givan to take the Mixed Doubles and John Murphy to win the Men’s.
A fantastic Class II tournament saw two Corkmen slug it out in the final, and this was a titanic battle between local rivals which saw Alan Walsh (Leeside) beat Mark White (Ballincollig) 12-10 in the final set.
On Sunday morning, the Junior Boys’ was the first event. Alan Walsh was on fire again, with wins over Zak Wilson and Luke Dempsey on his way to a final against Ryan Farrell, but unfortunately for Alan, Ryan was unstoppable on the day, losing none of his matches on Sunday.
Hannah Lynch-Dawson beat top-seeded Chloe O’Halloran in the semi-final to set up a match against Katie McGlone, and won 3-2.
Ethan Duffy’s late withdrawal in the “Mini-Cadets” event did not diminish a very hard fought event. Number one seed Ghenadie Isac (Donic) came up against an in-form Owen Cathcart (Ormeau), and Owen took three sets in a row by narrow margins.
Another title for Leeside in the Girls Under-13s, Zofia Wawrzyniak winning 3-1 against Jessie Hayes from Mountrath. Indeed, Leeside’s strong showing in all junior events saw them narrowly take the Munster Junior Cup ahead of Mountrath, with last year’s winners Club Donic in third.
Just a couple of events left… Tibor Pofok beat Pawel Kopacz in the vets and the afternoon was for the Under-21s. The lateness of the hour meant a somewhat depleted field in both Men’s and Ladies’ but there was still plenty of table tennis left in some of the players. Especially Ryan Farrell, who didn’t drop a set on his way to yet another title, defeating UCD’s Kevin Hutchinson. (Two Killarney players, Eoin Foran and Michael Lagan, reached the semi-finals.)
Sarah Timlin (UCD) met Deirdre Murphy (Leeside) in the Ladies’ final, and Sarah was a 3-1 winner.
So after three days with 200 competitors in seventeen events, 77 prizes were awarded! The INEC again proved to be a great venue for table tennis. For senior and junior players alike, the Munster Open continues to be one of Ireland’s most enjoyable tournaments with its unique mixture of senior and junior events.
Full results are here.