The Ulster Closed Championships took place at South Lake Leisure Centre, Craigavon on Sunday 2nd April 2023 with 97 entries across the six categories. The event was well supported, and it was great to see former players Louisa Taggart and her brother Tom Gibson as well as former TTI President Ken Strong among the spectators.
In the Mens singles, No.1 seed Daryl Strong topped his group to set up a last 16 encounter with former Ireland International Mervyn Kelly who was making his first appearance at an Ulster event for many years. When Mervyn won the game 11-7, whispers of a potential upset started to circulate around the hall, however, there was to be no fairytale return for Mervyn with Daryl winning the next 3 games. Further wins for Daryl over Paul Gallagher in the QF and Tom Irwin in the SF helped secure a place in the final.
In the other half of the draw the No.2 seed Adam Faulkner overcame Joe Colvin in the last 16 to set up a QF against St Annes, Rodney McKirgan with Adam winning in 4 games. Daniel Irwin edged out Aedan McGivern in the other QF to set up a SF against Adam. Whilst both Irwin brothers produced some excellent performances to reach the SF’s, they both missed out on a place in the final leaving Adam to play Daryl.
The first game of the final was nip and tuck with Adam continuing his excellent form of late, however, Daryl managed to take the first 14-12 and went on secure the title in straight games.
Ballymena’s Vladimir Brzak won the Mens consolation event with a four game win over John Huyton who plays his table tennis in the Lecale League in the Downpatrick area.
With only six entries in the Women Singles, it was run as a round robin group. Anjali Singh came out on top to retain the title she won last year having won the deciding game of the group by beating Emily Flynn. Niamh Mason finished third and Ruth McGilligan fourth.
In the Masters, defending champion Des Flanagan arrived in a buoyant mood, full of confidence that he would defend his title. It was a good start for Des who topped his group and progressed to the QF where he eased past Fergal O’Hagan to set up a SF clash with old sparring partner Sean McAnaney who had defeated Barry Dickson in QF. Sean’s encounter with Des proved to be one of the matches of the day with Sean taking a two-game lead only for Des to draw level at 2 games each. In the deciding game, Sean raced into a 9-4 lead only for Des to mount another comeback but unfortunately for Des he fell just short losing out 11-9.
In the other half of the draw Rodney McKirgan secured a SF place against Daryl Strong after they got the better of Gary O’Hara and Mervyn Kelly respectfully in the QF’s. In the SF Daryl won in three games to reach his second final of the day which he won in straight games against Sean McAnaney.
In the Master’s Consolation, Guillaume Chesnel produced some good performances to reach the SF where he lost out to Omagh’s Joe Maguire. Roy Coard won the other SF against Ruth McGilligan and recovered from loosing the first game of the final to beat Joe in four games.
The U19’s was extremely competitive with four of the Mens Quarter finalists, Adam Faulkner, Tom Irwin, Daniel Irwin and Aedan McGivern winning their respective groups and progressing through to the last eight where they were joined by Emily Flynn, Daniel McFaul, Alex Lo and Anjali Singh. Adam, Tom, Alex and Aedan make it to the SF’s with Adam and Alex going all the way to the final. It was Adam who came out on top to be crowned Ulster U19 Champion and ease some of the disappointment of his earlier loss in the Mens final.
U19’s consolation was won by Glenburn’s Dominic Ng who won an epic five game battle with Stanley Rintoul 8-11, 6-11, 11-4, 13-11 and 11-7. Banbridge brother and sister Josh and Aleyah Peniero were the losing semifinalists.
In the U15’s Grace Looney, Christopher Allsop, Daniel McFaul and Lily Parke contested the semifinals with Grace getting the better of Christopher and Daniel winning against Lily. Grace went on to win the final and claim the U15 title.
In a very competitive U15 Consolation event Ormeau’s Sophie Close progressed to the final after beating Banbridge’s Ryan Cairns in SF where she met clubmate Rebecca Scott who overcame the challenge of Glenburn’s Naomi Humes in the other SF. In a very entertaining final it was Sophie who came out on top 14-12 in the deciding game.
With Christopher Allsop travelling to Nottingham straight after the U13 ‘s event to train with the GB National U14 squad, it was no surprise that he took first place in the U13 event. Second place went to Filip Szarzynski with Mourne club players Erdem Mehmed and Reece Maguire, third and fourth respectfully. Glenburn’s Jane Wilson and Rachel Johnston were the other prize winners in this category.
Many thanks to all who helped make the event a success particularly Jennifer Thompson, Susan Irwin, Adam Brown, David Sheard, Joe Colvin, Danny McGivern, Craigavon TT Club members, the umpires and lastly the players for their sportsmanship and appreciation of the work involved to organize the event.