Report on the 2024 All Ireland Schools Table Tennis Schools’ Championships  held in Dublin on Thursday 25th April 2024.

The pinnacle of schools table tennis for schools in Ulster is the All Ireland Schools’ Championships held each April or May in the Indoor Sports Arena in Dublin. Ulster schools have fared very well at the event which sees the top Schools teams from each of the four Provinces invited to compete over four age categories each with a boys and girls section. A total of eight events are contested on the day – six for Secondary Schools U19Boys/Girls, U15 Boys/Girls and U13 Boys/Girls and two for Primary Schools, namely, the U12Boys and U12Girls.

The U19 Boys and U19 Girls are considered the blue-ribbon events at the secondary Schools’ finals and this year two Ulster schools received gold in these events, namely Grosvenor Grammar in the U19 Boys and Royal School Dungannon in the U19 Girls. The Grosvenor team have now won this event three years in a row and can rightly lay claim to the title “Invincibles” as they demolished a talented Blackrock College team from Dublin 8-0 in the final. Royal School Dungannon had an easier route to gold as their Leinster opponents withdrew at the eleventh hour so giving the school Gold by default.

The Ulster representatives in the U15 Boys’ category was Enniskillen Royal who won silver behind Blackrock College. The U15 Girls category was contested by Ulster’s Bloomfield College and they did the province proud, winning Gold in a tense encounter with St Tiernan’s College by a margin of 6 games to 3.  

The U13 Boys were represented by St Catherine’s School Armagh who were making their debut at the event. The School team battled hard in the semi final and lost out on a final’s birth by a single game losing to Ennis Community College by a score line of 5 games to 4. However, in the bronze medal play-off they were over powered by a strong Castleknock College team and so had to settle for fourth place. In the U13 Girls event Strathearn School repeated their All-Ireland gold medal performance of last year by defeating a talented Ennis team 6 games to 3. This meant that all three of the All-Ireland Secondary School Girls categories were won by schools from Ulster.  An outstanding achievement: and with Grosvenor’s victory in the U19 Boys it meant that 4 of the 6 secondary school categories were won by Ulster.

Success in the All-Ireland Primary Schools finals has long eluded primary schools from Ulster given that Primary School attendance south of the border lasts for 8 years as opposed to the 7 years in Northern Ireland. So, the Ulster primary school competitors are invariably a year younger than their Southern counterparts. And in table tennis that additional year makes a great difference. That said a talented Ballydown PS team from Banbridge almost created a surprise as they just lost out on Gold in a tense playoff after their match ended 3 games all. The Ballydown team then consisted of talented year 6 players and a year later they battled their way to the All Irelands defeating the cream of Ulster primary schools at the Ulster primary schools final. And the school did not disappoint at the All Ireland’s as they defeated Ballinora NS by 5 games to 1 in the semi finals and then in a hotly contested final, saw off a talented St Ronan’s NS team by a similar score-line. In the U12 Girls the Ulster representatives were Andrews Memorial PS who, like St Catherine’s, were making their debut at the event. The Andrews Memorial team produced a wonderful performance in the semi-final to beat Scoil Losagain, Agheda by 5 games to 1. However, there opponents in the final, St Ronan’s NS, were too strong on the day and Andrew’s Memorial had to settle for a hard-fought silver medal.

A big thank you to all the umpires, referees and TTI officials who ensured that all events ran smoothly and that a memorable day was had by all the competitors, irrespective of results.