BRILLIANT BATTLING BANGOR BOY BLITZES BALLYMENA TOURNAMENT.

Table tennis players from all over Ulster converged on Wellington Church on Saturday 1st September to participate in the 2018 North Antrim Table Tennis Open.

The qualifying competition commenced at 10.00am sharp with six groups each containing four or five players. To qualify for the Open Singles the players had to be placed in the top two in their respective Group. Those finishing third, fourth or fifth were entered in to the Class 2 event.

In Group 1 the top seed Thomas Early (Ormeau TTC) emerged relatively unscathed with a four set victory over Ballyclare’s Addy Subramani who finished second, and straight set wins over L’derry’s Sean McAnaney in third, Belfast’s  Matthew McCann in fourth and Craigavon’s Ray “two dogs” Fleming in  fifth.

Group 2 went as planned with second seed Zak Earley (Ormeau TTC) only dropping one set on his way to topping the group with Kesh’s Mervyn Funston second, the evergreen Roy Coard from Lisburn third, Ballymoney player Francis Shirley fourth and Ballymena newcomer Poitr Jakimowicz  fifth.

Group 3 had Larne stalwart Phil Jamison topping the group without dropping a set. Second was Omagh’s Des Flanagan, third was Ballymoney starlet Adam Faulkner, fourth was Randalstown’s Andrew Davies and fifth was Belfast’s Andrew McCann.

Group 4’s top seed James Skelton from Bangor took top place ahead of Belfast’s Connor Nugent in second Bangor’s Joel Smith third. Fourth place went to Coleraine’s Kia McCartney.

The fifth group had twelve year old Belfast sensation Sophie Earley top her group with Bangor’s Max Skelton second, Ballymena;s Chris McQuillan third, Colm Darragh from Ballymoney fourth and Ballyclare veteran Ian Davies fifth.

The final group  saw sixth seed Cookstown’s Mark McAllister top the group ahead of Donegal’s Paul Gallagher second, Banbridge’s Tiago Suitio third, Belfast’s Jeff Irvine fourth and Ballymoney’s David McCaughern fifth.

In the second round the twelve players that qualified for the North Antrim Open title were further whittled down to eight with the bottom player in each of the four groups of three leaving the party. This saw the departure of Sophie Earley (unwell), Mark McAllister, Des Flanagan, and Addy Subramani.

The third round was a straight knock out. In the quarter finals top seed Thomas Early defeated Paul Gallagher 11-4, 11-8 and 11-8; James Skelton beat Mervyn Funston 11-5, 11-9 and 11-9; Connor Nugent edge passed Max Skelton 13-11, 11-13, 12,10, 11-6; and Phil Jamison come from two sets down to beat second seed Zak Earley 8-11, 8-11, 11-5,11-9 and 11-7.

The first semi-final saw the departure of the top seed Thomas Early losing 11-5, 11-9 and 12-10 to James Skelton, while the second semi-final was also a tight affair with Phil Jamison edging passed Connor Nugent 11-6, 13-11, 11-6.

The final turned out to be an excellent exhibition of attacking table tennis with Skelton winning the first set 11-5. However Jamison fought back well and can count himself unlucky with a few nets and edges to lose the second set 11-9. A classic third set saw Jamison win a tight set 14-12 but Skelton was not to be denied his day as he took the fourth set 11-9 to become the North Antrim Open and claim the McBride Trophy. A fitting finale after eight hours and 396 sets of table tennis.

A huge congratulations to the Ormeau Table Tennis Club from Belfast who has all 4 of the semi-finalists on their books.

The Class 2 event saw Roy Coard take the honours with wins over Kia McCartney, Matthew McCann, Andrew McCann and David McCaughern in the group stages. He then defeated Tiago Suitio in the quarters, Adam Faulkner in the semi and Sean McAnaney in the final.

The Consolation of the Open was won by Mark McAllister who defeated Des Flanagan 11-9, 8-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-4 in the final. The Class 2 consolation was won by Ian Davies who beat Poitr Jakimowicz in the final 11-8, 7-11, 11-6, and 11-9.

Phil Jamison proved he was king of the hard bats as he won the novelty one point competition defeating Sean McAnaney in the final.

Norman McBride, the tournament referee thanked the Wellington Church for the continued use of the Hall and Arnold Morgan Secretary of Table Tennis Ulster for conducting the presentations. A huge thanks was also made to Arnold’s team of umpires Sandra Wilson, Adam Wilson and Adam Smith for their stoic work throughout the day. Last, but not least,  a big thank you was given to all the Wellington club players who helped set up the tables, surrounds umpire tables etc for this prestigious event and to all those who stayed behind after the event to help put everything away.