Silver Linings as Irish Show Class in Lisburn

The Senior Six Nations Championships has been and gone, but it has certainly left its mark following a breath-taking three days play in Lisburn. The event, supported by Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, lived up to all the hype as top players from Ireland and beyond gathered for what was a real festival of Table Tennis.

The Irish men’s team, led by national champion Paul McCreery, took its rightful place as Silver medallists behind a fine Scottish team, in the expansive Lisburn Racquets Club, while Ashley Givan led the line for the women’s side as they claimed a podium Bronze.
England took the combined title (23 points) ahead of the Irish (19 points), but will rue the 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Irish team of McCreery, Gavin Maguire, Ashley Robinson and Ryan Farrell, as they were denied the coveted men’s title.
McCreery was clearly team supremo as the Nottingham University graduate showed table precision in picking up two singles wins against old rivals England. Both of these wins were epic 5 set encounters, with the second one in particular going right to the wire as the saintfield man recovered from 4 match points down against the English No.1, Helshan Weerasinghe, to secure victory and level the team score at 2-2. In the decider it was time for Gavin Maguire to enter the fray once more. Gav, who lost a big battle with Weerasinghe earlier in the contest, dusted himself off to produce a quality display to beat England No.2 Alex Ramsden 3-1, earning Ireland a hard-fought, edge of the seat victory.

Scotland proved too strong in the final showdown against the host nation, winning 3-0. In truth, the score didn’t really refect the tie as a whole, as all three matches were tight encounters. Paul went down 3-2 to Craig Howieson, and this was followed by an equally nip and tuck affair between Ashley Robinson and Gavin Rumgay. Unfortunately, Ireland came out at the wrong end of another 5 setter here despite a brilliant battling display by Ashley. The doubles was another close one, as the newly formed pair of McCreery/Robinson showed huge quality against the established pairing of Rumgay/Howieson, but it wasn’t enough in the end as the boys went down 3-1.
Ashley Givan stepped up to the plate in leading our young womens team to a bronze medal.  Ashley, Katie McGlone and Rebecca Finn fought hard  throughout the team event, with victories over Guernsey and Scotland earning bronze. The best win came in the opening round of matches as the girls found themselves 2-1 down against Guernsey following a doubles loss. This is where Ashley Givan produced for the hosts, winning 3-1 against the highly rated Alice Loveridge. Katie then stepped up under the pressure to beat Chloe LeTissier 3-0 to seal the win. 

Despite their best efforts, Wales and England proved that bit too strong. However the girls had their chances, particularly against the Welsh. Again Ashley Givan showed her best form here, beating Welsh Number 2 Megan Phillips 3-0 before pushing their top player Charlotte Carey all the way before eventually going down in 5 engrossing sets. 

Overall, a bronze medal was a fine result for the young Irish team on show.

With the team event over, Singles Sunday was upon us as the Individuals event took centre stage. Despite some absolutely enthralling encounters, as well as some outstanding individual displays by Irish players, the host nation fell short in their bid to claim Individual Medals following the success of the team event.

In the men’s singles, Paul McCreery was perhaps the most unfortunate of all, as he was drawn against top seed Rumgay in the last 16 following the Scotsmans shock defeat in the Group stage to Welsh youngster Chris Griffiths. Despite yet another crowd pleasing display of table tennis, which included this 29 SHOT RALLY, Paul couldn’t quite shake off the battling Scottish No1 as he fell short by the narrowest of margins 12-10 in the fifth set. 

Elsewhere Gavin Maguire couldn’t quite find his best form as he went down in straight sets to the in form Craig Howieson in the Quarter Finals. Amazingly, this is a match that may have been avoided on another day, as Ireland’s own Owen Cathcart, an extra in the singles draw, pushed the Scottish No 2 to the brink in the last 16, leading 10-9 with chances to take a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately, experience told as Howieson proved too strong in the end, despite an outstanding display of agressive table tennis by the 13 year old Belfast boy. 

Meanwhile Ashley Robinson also fell victim to the Rumgay loss in the group stage, as he faced off once again with the top seed. Like the previous day, the Ulsterman was a match and more for the Scottish player, as the crowd were treated to another hugely entertaining battle. However, as was the story ALL weekend, Rumgay found a way to get the job done as he pipped Ashley 11-8 in the 5th set. 

This wasn’t where Irish interest ended in the men’s singles however, as Zak Wilson (another singles extra) showed what a player he is as he stormed to the quarter finals. This was following big victories over Welsh No.2 Dan O’Connell, Guernsey No 1 Garry Dodd and Ireland’s Alan Walsh. In the quarters Zak had his chances, but like many matches for the Irish on singles Sunday, fell marginally short as he lost out to England’s No 2 Alex Ramsden 12-10 in the 4th Set – an excellent performance!

On the women’s side, Chloe O’Halloran provided the first shock of the day, beating Ireland leading light of the team event Ashley Givan, by a 3-2 scoreline in the group stage, and with it knocking Ashley out of the event. Chloe went on to the quarter finals, where despite a valiant effort, she was beaten 3-1 by the experienced Welsh No 2 Megan Phillips.

Elsewhere, Katie McGlone and Rebecca Finn also earned quarter final spots as they negotiated their way through the group stages. However, this was as far as our young girls would go as they were drawn against the eventual finalists, Carey and Karina LeFevre respectively. They both fought hard, with Rececca taking a set off the soon to be champion, however it wasn’t quite enough in the end – valuable experience nonetheless for our youthful group of female players.

Overall, it was a very positive event from an Irish perspective. Our Men and Women showed immense quality and most importantly, that they are making progress for all to see. 

A final mention must also be made for the event itself, which ran without fault from start to finish thanks to the monumental effort put in by all  of the volunteers, particularly tournament Referee Tony Martin, assistant Con O’Ceadaigh, Table Tennis Ulster, Jamie and Stuart McConkey, the TTI Events Unit (Led by Tony Farrell) and of course the many umpires and officials who assisted thoughout the weekend. From everyone in Table Tennis Ireland, we thank you for your invaluable contribution to this great event.

Team Event Final places
Men’s Team: 1. Scotland; 2 Ireland; 3 England; 4. Wales; 5. Guernsey; 6. Jersey. 
Women’s Team: 1. England; 2. Wales; 3. Ireland; 4. Guernsey; 5. Scotland.
Combined Team Places:  1. England; 2. Ireland; 3. Wales; 4. Scotland; 5. Guernsey; 6. Jersey.

For the full results from the Individuals please click here