Maynooth University Sports Centre in Co Kildare was the place to be on the 15th and 16th April 2023. The Junior and Senior Teams from each of the four provinces battled it out for glory, medals and the prestigious shields and trophies. It was a weekend of competitive and enjoyable matches, played in good spirit.
Whilst Ulster was able to field teams in the 6 junior and 3 senior categories, it was disappointing that some of the provinces were unable to have teams available especially in the junior, cadet and mini-cadet girls categories. So, instead of 6 categories being contested over the course of the day for the Junior shield, there were only 3 categories. This was disappointing for the girls who had gained selection through their hard work and training throughout the year and also prevented Ulster from possibly lifting the Junior shield again this year.
The mini cadet boys team of Christopher Allsop, Toby Caldwell and Karsten Close (NPC Francis Shirley) faced a strong Leinster team. They played well and will have gained much experience from the encounter as well as their ‘Provincial Cap’ but unfortunately lost out 3-6. With no mini cadet teams entered from Munster and Connacht, they gained the silver medal.
The Cadet boys team of Aaditya Singh, Peadar Sheridan and Daniel McFaul (NPC John McFaul) had a much closer encounter against Leinster with the scoreline after 6 games at 3-3. However, it was not to be for the boys with Leinster clinching victory (4-5) and the Ulster boys gaining silver medals.
The Junior boys team of Joe Sheard, Adam Faulkner and Alex Lo (NPC Tomasz Toman) had comfortable victories over Munster (8-1) and Leinster (7-2). Adam won his 3 matches against Munster in 3 straight sets whilst Alex was able to score 3 wins against the Leinster team. Gold medals for the boys, with Adam also being presented with the Colum Slevin Award.
The U21 team of Grace Looney, Crystal Ho, Ben Watson, Tom Irwin and Aedan McGivern (NPC Joe Colvin), had a straightforward win over the Leinster team (8-2). Grace, Crystal and Ben won both their matches with the team claiming the gold medal position. The prestigious Clarence Moore Perpetual Shield returned to Ulster again, having been in Ulster’s possession last year also.
In the Senior category, players James Skelton, Tom Colvin, Max Skelton, Erin Thompson, Emily Flynn and Anjali Singh with NPC Gervis Knox had comfortable wins against Munster (8-2) and Connacht (10-0). The deciding match for gold position was going to be between Ulster and Leinster. Tom won both his matches whilst James and Anjali each secured one victory leaving the final score at 4-6 to Leinster and therefore silver medals for the Senior team.
In the Masters category, Ulster also claimed silver. The Masters team of Norman Nabney (NPC), Pat McCloughan, Ruth McGilligan, Phil Wallace, Rodney McKirgan, and Daryl Strong reluctantly relinquished the Shield which had been in their possession since 2015. Although they were disappointed, there were several positives to be gained. Daryl remained undefeated and was never troubled in winning his 6 singles and 3 doubles. Phil, Pat, Rod, and very enthusiastic debutant Ruth McGilligan were undefeated as Ulster beat Connacht and Munster 9-0. In the final showdown Ulster came just short, losing 5-4 to a very strong Leinster team. Pat got the team off to a perfect start by beating Eduardo, Phil came agonisingly close to a win over Tibor, losing deuce in the fifth, and Daryl beat John Bowe. Ruth lost to the talented Rita, the doubles were shared, and Daryl put Ulster 4-3 up by beating Tibor. Ulster couldn’t quite close it out in the remaining 2 matches, but the team gave it their best shot.
The final medal tally resulted in Ulster claiming 2 gold and 4 silver medal positions. Hopefully next year, all the Provinces will be able to field teams in all the categories. Thanks must go to the Events committee, Top Table staff, TTI office staff, voluntary umpires and Tournament Referee, Adrian Brown for staging the event.