Sunday 13th December saw 100 young players travel to Lucan in Dublin to participate in a new ITTA tournament, Event 1 of the STIGA Junior Challenger Series. The event was a remarkable success, providing competitive table tennis in a fun environment for children who have benefitted from ITTA funded coaching through initiatives such as Women in Sport and the New Schools Initiative, as well as players outside the top echelons of the Irish ranking lists. All players played lots of matches as the 100 entries played through 3 round robin stages, the final one being the 4 divisions – this ensured all players got an opportunity to play against players of equivalent ability and experience as the day drew to a close.
The event was well supported by schools within the Leinster catchment area, but particular credit must go to the Mayo players, 10 of who travelled a long distance to play in this event. All players went home tired but happy after a long day’s table tennis, many of whom promising to work on their game over the Christmas period to be better prepared for Event 2 of the Series which will be staged in Dunshaughlin on Sunday 10th January.
Division One was where the more experienced players could have a chance of success at a National event, many for the 1st time. The title was hard fought for with some great table tennis on display. In the Final, 2 Eastpoint TTC players clashed in an enthralling 5 setter, with Ian Fahey battling gamely before eventually succumbing to team-mate Adam Claffey, who will be delighted to claim the inaugural STIGA Junior Challenger Series title. Semi-finalists Kevin Malone of St.John’s and Danny Murphy of Howth will also be happy to have reached the latter stages of the Division.
Lucan based player Dara Gray claimed the Division Two title in style, defeating Shane McLoughlin of Howth in the Final. This Division also saw some impressive performances from Howth’s Orna McLoughlin who made the semi-final and Mayo’s Sean Og Tigue who was eliminated at the last 4 stage also.
Division Three and Four provide a fantastic opportunity to many players to experience competitive table tennis at a level where they had a chance of making the Final and claiming a sought after STIGA prize. Mayo’s Marie Williams performed heroics to be the only female player to make a Final in the Division 3 section, but she was just eclipsed by Mark Murray of Knocklyon who claimed his first table tennis tournament title. In the Division Four decider, Sean Denny just defeated Killian Dunne to claim the title in front of an appreciative audience.
Congratulations must go to all of the players and coaches who attended the event. Many thanks also to the volunteers who performed heroic, particularly when the event got to the knock out stages. Finally, thanks to Tommy Fitzgerald and STIGA for the Series sponsorship – check out www.tftt.ie for an