The achievement of the weekend would have to be Emma LUDLOW’S brilliant battle to claim her first National Senior title. An achievement that looks ever more extraordinary when she came into the event seeded 6th. At the group stages LUDLOW recorded a significant win over third seed Hannah LYNCH-DAWSON 3-2, which attracted the attention of the watching fans as the two girls’ battled it out. At the quarter final stage she came through a comfortable winner over Marta ZAREBA. The semi-final saw her face the number 1 seed Katie MCGLONE. The match was neck and neck and at 1-1 and the two girls battled hard and in two agonizingly close sets LUDLOW came out on top winning 14-12 and 12-10 to take a 3-1 lead. MCGLONE pulled back the fifth set, but LUDLOW stormed to an early lead in the sixth set and never looked back, she booked her place in the final to face 3 times National Champion Ashley GIVAN.
The final saw LUDLOW take the opening sets 11-9, 11-9 and putting pressure on the experienced GIVAN. The spectators knew the battle wasn’t over and GIVAN pulled back the third 12-10. LUDLOW found another gear in the fourth set and took a 3-1 lead. The fifth set was neck and neck, the score was 9-9 and LUDLOW took the next point to have her first ever National Senior Championship point, GIVAN showed exceptional nerve and took the next 3 points and the set to bring it back to 3-2. However as in the semi-final LUDLOW was determined to wrap up the match, and raced to 10-2 lead. She now had 8 more championship points; but she only needed the one taking her maiden title 4-2. Emma ran straight to her mother Anne who had been anxiously sitting in the stands and a warm embrace from the proud mother was greeted with further applause.
In the Mens Singles, the level was top class and it was very difficult to predict a winner. Remarkably, the semi-final pairings were identical to 2013, with Gavin MAGUIRE facing John MURPHY and Paul MCCREERY facing international team-mate Ashley ROBINSON. Murphy showed his supreme battling skills to push MAGUIRE all the way in an exciting match on the show court which had the crowd on the edge of their seats. MAGUIRE raced in to a 3-1 lead, showcasing his talent as he looked to move to the Final. Murphy is never beaten though and came back to level at 3-3 to set up a final set decider. Having been pushed all the way by Declan O’BRIEN in the Quarter Final, this was a step too far for MURPHY and MAGUIRE showed nerves of steel to progress to the National Senior Final. On the other side of the draw, MCCREERY had progressed all the way to the Semi-Final without dropping a set – he looked focussed and determined to retain his title. He faced Ashley ROBINSON in the semi-final, and looked to avenge ROBINSON’s win from the Under 21s on Day 1. This was a spectacular match with both players playing some outstanding table tennis. McCreery fell 3-2 behind and for a moment he looked like he might relinquish his title. However, he battled back and we had another final set decider – with the margins so fine at this level, the experience of being National champion must have some bearing on the outcome, and McCreery just edged out the impressive ROBINSON to progress to the Final. Many commentators expressed the view that for ROBINSON, he will one day claim this title, but for 2014 we had a re-match of last year’s Final.
The eagerly awaited Final pitted two top class players against each other and they gave a demonstration of skill, athleticism and mental strength to provide a thrilling conclusion to the Championships. Maguire at 3-1 up must have fancied his chances of recording his 2nd National Senior title. McCreery, always composed, found himself battling again as he had done in the Semi-Final. He stepped up a gear that Maguire, on the day, could not match, claiming the 3 remaining sets (3,4,7) to claim a consecutive National title and bring the Eddie Limberg trophy home. The crowd cstood to acclaim both players and McCreery himself jumped on top of the table to celebrate, a mix of joy and relief etched on his face – he had been pushed all the way by Maguire.
In the Veterans, Dariusz Zatylny edged out Daryl Strong to claim the title. Ashley Robinson claimed the Under 21 Men’s Final, with a fine win over McCreery in the Semi-Final and a straight sets win over World Championship team-mate Ryan Farrell in the Final. In the Under 21 Women’s Final, Leeside TTC’s Chloe O’Halloran edged out UCD’s Sarah Timlin in an exciting Final.
In the Doubles, Katie McGlone and John Murphy teamed up – MURPHY had targeted this title as the only National title he had yet to win, and both players showed great strength and quality to claim the title with a win over Givan and Maguire in the Final. Murphy added to his title haul by combining with Paul McCreery to claim the Men’s Doubles title, with a win over Maguire and Robinson. It was great to see Amanda MOGEY back in action after significant injury troubles and she did not leave the Nationals empty handed, combining with Ashly Givan to claim the Women’s Doubles title.
The Para events saw some shock results. 18 Year old Colin Judge, recently confirmed as a member of Paralympics Ireland Fast-Track Panel of athletes, claimed his first National title in a tense Final against Philip Quinlan. Rena McCarron Rooney claimed the Women’s Wheelchair Singles, while Philip Quinlan and Ronan Rooney claimed the Doubles title, following a marathon semi-final over John Finn and Colin Judge and a Final win over Rena McCarron Rooney and Christine Doyle.
In the Class II Singles, UCD’s Kevin Hutchinson was in outstanding form, progressing to a title win without dropping a set, including an impressive win over Paul O’Toole at the Final stage.
ITTA Chief Operations Officer, Darren Coombes said:
“This event continues to grow and remains the most anticipated event on the ITTA Calendar. We had a really impressive volunteer effort and the use of a fantastic facility which allowed our top players put on a great display of table tennis. This was our first foray into live streaming and we were delighted with the results. Congratulations to all of our 2014 National Champions, in particular Paul McCreery and Emma Ludlow who claimed the Men’s and Women’s Singles titles in front of an enthralled crowd.”
He also thanked his wonderful team of volunteers, Event Referee Con O’Ceadaigh, Umpires, Media Team and Logistics team and extended congratulations to the 2014 crop of National Champions.
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