The West Cork Open, the second Munster Ranking Event of the season, took place in Goleen over the weekend of 7th-8th November. Three score and ten players made the journey to beautiful West Cork for a weekend of exciting table tennis.
Scroll down for report, a Gallery of Prizewinners and lots of photos taken by our guest photographers.
West Cork Open 2015
Report: Owen Kelly
The venue was Goleen Community Centre not in the heart of West Cork but on the furthest fringes. An outpost of our sport in the “wild west” and only the most committed paddle-wielding pioneers of ping pong were brave enough to make this epic journey. However this is the same journey that our West Cork based players and those based in Goleen and its surrounds have to make for every one of the Munster Rankings and this is only the second of the new series of five on the calendar this season.
Seventy players over two days of competition and 127 entries. Goleen are rightly proud of their facility, an oasis with high standards and heady goals for such a small community. The interest in the event locally and even its impact on the economy of the local community was highlighted with a visit from the Cork County Mayor and local councillor, John Paul O'Shea, accompanied by those responsible for such a venue, the local Goleen Community Council.
The action was fast and furious with the U-13 events kicking off the day. The boys event is a lottery with so much talent on display, this has to be a good sign for the future of Munster Table Tennis and that future is dawning with the likes of local hero Erik Olsson and spreads as far as north Tipperary and Jake Adler of the Cloughjordan Club, to Nick MacLeod of Southcoast and to the heartland of Cork and Ciaran O’Donoghue of Ballincollig our semi finalists at the West Cork Open. The ever consistent Nick MacLeod joined the heady heights after a titanic battle with Isaac Leahy in the 1/4s, with Ciaran O’Donoghue taken to the wire by club mate Cian Ross over the course of 5 sets. It was Ciaran who cleared his path to the final overcoming the No. 1 Seed Erik in four sets where he met Jake Adler who also took four sets to make it against Nick MacLeod. Ciaran was dominant in the Final over Jake and it was Ballincollig who celebrated the first title of the day.
The U-13 Plate saw a match between Adam Buckley (Ballincollig) and Rory Griffin (Southcoast) with Adam taking it 2-1.
The competition in the girls is not as close Silke Heinen is way ahead of the pack and dominates this age category and Leeside Club mate Thi Ly is the only one likely to make a challenge to this supremacy finishing first and second. Robyn Fitzgerald from Cloughjordan took her first podium finish against local girl Jasmine Kelly who took fourth. Hannah Austin, Cloughjordan took fifth only after an epic five-set match against Leeside’s Isabelle O’Sullivan.
It wasn’t Isabelle’s only epic match as she faced West Cork’s Suki Kelly in the U-11 Girls final that also went the full distance and was played in a great sporting manner and fair credit to the players. Suki retained her U-11 Title but watch this space…..
The U-11 Boys has its stars too and it was Luke Murdoch, Leeside who ran out triumphant over Conor O’Sullivan from Kinneigh with another Leeside player Liam Leisk taking 3rd over Rory Griffin of South Coast. The Plate Final was a match-up between Cathal O’Driscoll and Suki Kelly both from West Cork with Cathal winning out by the narrowest of margins.
The U-15 Boys is more than peppered by U-13 players but Alexander Ahl (Leeside) and Conor O’Callaghan (Beech Hill) both made the quarter-finals with Alexander taking the match 3-1 to reach the final. No. 1 seed Ciaran O’Donoghue and U-13 Champion was obviously in great form and he once again overcame Jake Adler to reach the final.
And what a final it was! Fiercely contested and full of dramatic play, counter hitting and stunning rallies the crowd were well entertained. The match ebbed and flowed and the intensity was almost overcoming as the fifth and final set brought out the very best. Ciaran took a late advantage as he played a forehand counter hit right off the bounce and exposed the wide forehand wing to pull ahead to win 11-9 and claim his second title of the day to an enthusiastic audience. Conor O’Callaghan won the 3rd/4th challenge against Jake Adler.
The U-15 Girls was a seven player round robin event with six of the players from Leeside and only West Cork’s Jasmine Kelly competing. Zofia Wawrzyniak is the current Irish No. 2 and proved too strong for her challengers but being pressed by an in-form Thuy Linh Cashman who took 2nd, Silke Heinen took 3rd and Julia Pikus 4th.
The second day was the turn of the U-18s and a small turn out it was with only 9 in the boys event and 8 in the girls. Top seed in the girls was Kinneigh’s Kerry O’Mahoney and she cruised her way to the final after beating club mate Shelly Tobin who turned the tables on the second seed Mair Kelly in the group stages. The other side of the draw saw Thuy Linh Cashman take on Zofia Wawrzyniak and this was a nail biter of a match with Thuy Linh coming out a surprise winner on a 3-2 score line. However it was Kerry O’Mahoney who topped the polls on a 3-0 scoreline to take her second Munster U-18 Title of the season. West Cork's Jeanie Clarke made her debut performance at the Munster Rankings finishing 8th.
The Kinneigh Club were having a good day and it went one better when James Barry saw off the challenge of Alexander Ahl in the U-18 Boys Semi Final and it became the battle of the James gang when James Kelly took his place after a win against Conor O’Callaghan. The Jameses had met in the first round group with Barry going close with a 3-2 loss but it was Kelly who remains undefeated at his own age group for 5 years who took another U-18 title on a 3/1 score line. Alexander finished 3rd and Conor 4th.
The Veterans event saw a win for Philip Shaw over Pawel Kopacz with Ivan Shorten 3rd and Gary O’Mahony 4th.
The Senior’s was the last event of the day and this was split between Band 1 and Band 2. Band 2 was a group round robin event and it was another Kinneigh player (and Chairman) Ivan Shorten who claimed his first Band 2 Title with Gary O’Mahony (Leeside) playing in his first Munster event. The Tralee duo of Tony Higgins and Adam Buckley finished 3rd and 4th respectively.
The stage was set for a dramatic finale in the senior event with the young pretender and No. 1 seed trying to defend his remarkable win at the South Coast Open. The semi-final match-up was between James Kelly and Pawel Kopacz and on the adjoining table Alan Walsh and Philip Shaw. Both Pawel and Philip have claimed Veteran’s titles this season and they needed to use all that experience against the young chargers. Philip was in startling form with his fast hitting left hand style but Alan Walsh managed to surf the choppy waters and took the win to reach the final. Pawel proved the toughest of opponents for James as the match went to the final set, the match on 10-10 a time out was called and James settled himself with a plan of action that he brilliantly put into play to take his spot in the final.
The last match of the day and there was still a good group of spectators made up of Ballincollig players and parents and a sizeable contingent of the Kelly clan. The quality of play was excellent with both players matching each other stroke for stroke, pushing each other to their limits, winning shots were countered but Alan had the edge in the first two sets and looked confident of victory. James had to pull out his very best and rallied in the third set but no player had dominance as everyone was treated to the best that Munster has to offer. Alan took the fourth set and a well deserved victory putting his quarter-final defeat at the last event by the hands of his younger foe to rest and his name to the top once again.
The Munster Rankings moves back to Cork in December and all the players will undoubtedly be working that little bit harder either to retain or to regain their positions. The Belfast Open looms on the horizon at the end of this month and the Munster Schools League will be on the 19th November so let’s hitch up the wagons and head back home.
A very special thanks to Tony Leahy and Tony Higgins whose help was much appreciated and a word of thanks to all those kids who volunteered for the umpiring especially the O’Callaghans, Leahys and Ciaran.
A special thanks to Jorg's Goldsmiths (Crookhaven) and Ted Bollard of Celtic Table Tennis for their generous sponsorship.
Prizewinners Gallery (click to enlarge image, right-click to download)
Lots of images from the two days of action at the West Cork 2015 Open! We have guest photographers Mair Kelly, Shane O'Callaghan, Isaac Leahy and Ciaran O'Donoghue to thank for these photos - between them they took well over a thousand pictures!
Slideshow Day One
Slideshow Day Two
Don't go hungry in Goleen... Visit "Along the Way" on Main Street, a couple of minutes from the Community Centre, for delicious sandwiches and treats. Don't take our word for it, click here to see what the experts think!