Topspin Ace McCloughan shines in Downpatrick

The Ulster Masters Table Tennis Grand Prix got underway in Downpatrick last Saturday 28th September. Players from all over the province travelled to De La Salle Sports Hall to compete in the prestigious Frank Spalding Memorial Trophy competition with the winner of the event being crowned Ulster Closed champion.

Ulster Masters Table Tennis remains on a real high following an historic victory in the Interprovincial Championships earlier this year when the Ulster team won gold for the first time since 1998 beating the other provinces, Leinster, Connacht and Munster by amazing 8-1 score lines.  Members of the victorious team competed on Saturday at De La Salle school.  John McFaul (Team Coach) said “We are keen to build on the euphoria of being current Irish Champions as we know that Ulster has great strength and depth at this level so we want as many players as possible to take part in this season’s Grand Prix series which kicks off in Downpatrick.” And that is exactly what he got.

Play began with a round robin format which is executed to give all players the maximum amount of matches throughout the day. Round 1 saw former international players such as the forever young, Ted “The Terrier” Mahaffy, putting many players through their paces. Quite impressive for the 76 year old legend from North Belfast. Others blended back into the new season hoping to pick up from last years’ efforts but took time to find their feet. Martin Pickles, fresh from a summer of international level competition, took his time to find consistency but by the afternoon was playing some impressive stuff. Mark McAllister from Cookstown was looking in fine form and hitting some impressive shots on the table. Round 2 saw great play on display and the score lines became tighter as the day went on.

After many ups and downs from the players the hall settled down to a “Top 4 shoot off” to decide the final standings. The hard hitting Roy Coard from Lisburn battle as hard as ever and showed real signs of promise against a steady Norman Nabney and a fit young Willie Cherry. Battles went close to the wire on many occasions but it was the spectacular Pat McCloughan who steadied his game, remained consistent to win gold.

Ulster Masters Top 8 Final Standings, Tournament 1.

1.    Pat McCloughan

2.    Willie Cherry

3.    Norman Nabney

4.    Roy Coard

5.    Allen Robson

6.    Jeremy Lappin

7.    Martin Pickles

8.    Mark McAllister

Meanwhile the Irish Junior Squad had a weekend of intense training in Dublin under the watchful eyes of Colum Slevin, former Irish international. The preparation will help focus the younger players ahead of the Ulster Junior Open that is due to be held at the Valley Leisure Centre, Newtownabbey on Saturday and Sunday, 19/20th October. Players from all over Ireland and from the mainland will compete at this event. Emma Ludlow, Belfast, and Zak Wilson, Newtownabbey, to name but a few will be looking desperately to defend their titles.