St. Mary's Hall is the home of Killarney Table Tennis Club and is well used to hosting Table Tennis tournaments, from Munster Ranking events to Senior Inter-Provincials. This weekend brought something new to this great venue, thanks to an initiative of Anthony Redmond (Killarney's coach) and his counterparts in West Cork (Owen Kelly) and near neighbours Tralee (Tony Higgins). Initially billed as a "Triangular Senior Tournament" between the three clubs, it could well be renamed the "Killarney World Cup of Table Tennis" with no less than nine different nationalities represented on the six teams!
Players from Ireland, Scotland, England, Croatia, Poland, India, Pakistan, Spain and Belgium took part in a highly-charged (but very friendly!) senior tournament on February 22nd.
Killarney with five players were just short one player to make up two teams, so they poached Humayan Zaheer from Tralee for their "B" squad. Tralee brought two teams, and there were two teams playing under the West Cork banner, one representing Skibbereen and the other from Ballydehob. Thanks to Matthew Pop who stepped into the breach even though he's not quite "senior" yet, and Kevin who did the same for Ballydehob. Players ranged in age from early teens to early eighties!
Play got under way just after eleven, in a "round robin" format meaning that each team played all of the others. The format was similar to the Olympics team event (the standard may have been a bit lower!) With three players to a team, two singles were followed by a doubles, and finished off with two more singles. We started playing best-of-5, but soon realised that we were too old to keep that up all day and after lunch (courtesy of Killarney Table Tennis Club!) the matches were decided best-of-3 — always a formula for the occasional upset!
Incredibly, after fifteen matches over the five rounds of play, not a single one was decided on a 5-0 whitewash scoreline, indeed a single win separated the teams in ten of the matches.
Round three was extra special: three local derbies simultaneously! Killarney "A" v "B", Tralee "A" v "B" and Skibbereen v Ballydehob.
Killarney's "A" squad had strength in depth, however, and despite four opposing teams winning two of the five rubbers, no-one could make the breakthrough and they ended up clear winners. The Killarney "B" squad did not disappoint either, losing only to their "A" team and Ballydehob, and ending up second with three wins out of five.
It's difficult to keep young players interested in the sport when they leave school, especially iof they are competing a below "elite" level, but events like this can only raise the profile of the sport and this was a hugely successful day and great fun for all participants. Other clubs take note!
No-one went home empty-handed, with prizes for all participants. A huge thanks to Anthony Redmond & Paul O'Shea (and their team of helpers) for their hospitality (and huge trays of food!)
(L to R) Anthony Redmond (Killarney), Tony Higgins (Tralee), Owen Kelly (West Cork)