After completing my Leaving Cert in June, I decided to defer my college course for the year so that I could play table tennis full-time. Table Tennis has been such an important part of my life, and this was something that I really wanted to do. I am currently living in Eslov, which is a small town near Malmo in the south of Sweden. Eslov is one of the top TT clubs in Sweden, and I knew that it would give me the opportunity to improve my game over the course of the year.
Before I moved to Sweden, I played in the Senior Classification, and as always it is an interesting tournament to kick start the season. I managed to get to the semi-finals, eventually losing to Paul McCreery. I was pleased with the result, but I knew that I had a lot to work on once I started playing full-time.
I`ve been living here for 7 weeks now, and I`m really enjoying my time. I practice 10 times (approx 20 hours) a week with a rest day on Sunday. I also try to do physical training in the gym 2/3 times a week. Making the transition was a big challenge for me at the start, and it`s something that I`m still adapting to. Playing twice a day is both physically and mentally demanding, but I was well aware that it wasn`t going to be easy! I think it`s really important to rest between sessions. Even a power nap for 30 minutes can give you an energy boost for the next session. Some mornings, I find it difficult to get out of bed, but I always try to remember the reason why I`m here and that’s to improve every single day. During sessions, I always try to practice with total concentration, because if I lose focus I will not benefit from the training. Eslov is a great club with fantastic coaches such as Peter Sartz (who coached Michael Maze from a young age until 2007) and Peter Andersson, a former Swedish International.
I also play Swedish League for Eslov in Division 2. The team consists of myself, Jake Duffy from Australia and 3 other Swedish players from the club. So far we have played 2 games, winning 1 and losing 1. On a personal note, I managed to win 4/6 matches. League matches are a great experience for me and will only aid my development. We will be playing our next matches on the 28th of November, so that will give us the opportunity to hopefully move up the table.
I cycle to and from training every day, which usually takes no more than 15 minutes. Unfortunately, while I was coming home from practice one day, I lost concentration and went head first into a lamp post ! I had to get 8 stitches on my forehead, but was lucky not to do any other damage. I was fortunate that a women saw the incident and rang an ambulance. It took me a few days to recover, but I was back practicing within a week. I now have a neat scar on my forehead, which will act as a reminder of my clumsy loss of concentration !!
A week after the accident, I played in the Helsinborg Open, competing in the U20’s and Class 1. There were no group matches as it was straight knockout. I managed to win my first match in both events, but lost to seeded opponents in the next round. I was happy with my performance, but I knew there were plenty of areas of my game to improve on in practice. It was also great to catch up with John Murphy and Katie McGlone at the event. Katie is living in Norway at the moment and it`s clear that she is benefiting from this move, as she had some great results in the tournament.
After Helsinborg, I flew back to Ireland to play the Leinster GP. I came back feeling sharp and ready to go, but I left the tournament feeling disappointed as I didn’t reach the level that I was playing at here in Sweden. I progressed to the quarter finals where I met Peter Graham. I was expecting a difficult match as Peter has won our last three encounters with each match going to 5 sets. It was another close game but Peter managed to win 3-1. I think the reason why I didn’t perform as I had hoped was that I put too much pressure on myself. I`ve only been playing full-time for 7 weeks and I probably expected too much of myself. All the adjustments that I`m making to my game won`t happen over night. It will take time for these changes to become embedded in my match play and I just have to be patient. One of my coaches told me that during training sessions we think about our mistakes and try to find a way to fix them. But, during matches we just play as there is no time to think about changing our technique. It was really important for me to realise this, because I use to think that if I adjusted my technique in practice that it would automatically adapt to match play, but that’s not the case. The more we work on these changes in training, the more noticeable they will be in matches. So I just have to keep practicing to develop my game, and I know that the hard work will pay off in time.
My next competition will be the Senior 6 Nations on the 13th-15th of November. I will be joining Paul McCreery, Gavin Maguire and Ashley Robinson on the team. This will be my first Senior 6 Nations and I`m really looking forward to it. The event is taking place in Ireland, so hopefully the home support will be a big advantage for us and that we can claim some medals!
That sums up everything I`ve done over the past 7 weeks. It`s been a good start to life in Sweden, and I hope that I can keep progressing over the course of the season. If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment, and I will respond as best as I can. Thanks for reading!