UCC was the last Munster Rankings of the season. UCC is a lovely venue with excellent space, flooring and seating. The event was held over the Easter weekend, I don’t think this was originally planned to be on this date but earlier in the year but UCC is a difficult place to book so the last opportunity prior to the Interpros was the Easter weekend. There are a lot of demands put on family life as a coach in table tennis. My long suffering wife Kate is constantly having to sacrifice her cycling events or we are away for family birthdays etc. It might be a bit odd by I missed the Easter Egg hunt in the garden this year and I don’t know how many of those I will have left with my girls. I had to catch up with the Easter Rising events on YouTube and that only happens once every 100 years!
So the weekend was good but good enough to be sacrificing family time at home, may be not…..
We had successes within events and young Cathal O’Driscoll made it to the U11 Plate Final. An event like this does challenge the players and Cathal only really started playing like he does in the club after the first round. It is always rewarding seeing a kid who is so enthusiastic playing away and learning. Fair does to mum by the way, tiered and exhausted (that’s the mum btw) she still let Cathal knock up after the competition was long over! Good support.
Jasmine had a couple of personal goals prior to the event and these were achieved. She got off to a slow start but started really opening up and moving a bit more. She managed to take the girl ranked above her to 5 sets which she was delighted with. She has regularly finished 3rd and this time she was 4th but we were both very happy with the way she played and when she had to play the same girl again she managed to with another set and there are definitely encouraging signs of improvement.
Suki in the U11s also had her goals which included a new serve she has been working on. Unfortunately she showed none of the form she has been showing in training but in her second match she started using her new service and settled into a better level. She finished 3rd in the event and 1st for the season, though I don’t think it means much to her she just loves hanging out with a couple of the other players.
Erik had a couple of challenges to face with Munster team points in the offing, he ended up having to play Isaac in the 3th/4th play off for a guaranteed place. It was an epic battle and both players really played well. There has often been a tactical battle between defence and attack and there were some stunning rallies on this occasion. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed with the result but what impressed me more was the mental strength Erik had during and after the match. He does get an automatic place on the U15 Team but he did want to share in the bond our Munster U13 boys have developed over the last couple of years. At the end of his day he had two really tough 5 to 8 play off matches where I was delighted he showed both his physical and mental stamina winning two good matches against Isaac and Nick to finish 5th in the U15s.
I had a car full of U18s on the Sunday with Tom and Niall joining Mair and James there a great bunch and the craic was mighty. Tom ended up having a great day, he was unfortunate to meet Jimini in the semi final but won his 3rd/4th play off with ease. It’s great to see him playing with such enthusiasm and I expect he will get better and better, just a shame it is the end of the season as he has only just got started. Niall didn’t have a great event and seemed ill at ease. He played better in the Band 2 Senior event but it was Tom who stole the show this time remaining undefeated event going down to ex West Corker James Heap but showing his steel in a terrific come-back. Heap is still a pleasure to watch a mixer of intensity and dogged determination two great qualities in any player. Tom and Heap are pretty much neighbours in Bantry and it is a delight to see them returning to the game.
Jimini won the U18 event making in a clean sweep of Munster titles. I am constantly being asked if this is his last year as a junior. No it’s not his last year it is his first. His dominance at this event in one way is great credit to him but I do have concerns that he is lacking the competition that he needs to help him progress. He certainly has that level in the Senior event and I was very happy to watch his performances in the event. He reached the Semi Final where he lost to Matt Hayes. He wasn’t quite as competitive as he was at the Ballincollig event but Matt was in very good form and went onto win his first Senior Title of this season. Mair and James played in the ¼ final but I decided not to watch that match. James finished 2nd in the Senior Rankings in his first year playing at them and it has been a good experience.
Mair went into the U18s as top seed after the surprise withdraw of Kerry O’Mahoney who has been tearing up the Munster U18 Rankings this season. With so few girls playing at the moment they went into a round robin group which ended up with three girls on one loss and Mair had to settle for 3rd. I still think she is playing well and that her regular attendances at the Irish Training camps have help her sharpen up her match play.
So that wraps up the Munster Rankings 2015-16 I did write about the UCC event in my coach’s blog and it was great to meet up with Pat Hurley who I coached as a kid and played in the Veteran rankings at UCC. The organisers were great and there was a good atmosphere at the event if not a bit subdued. The hall is so big and we don’t have the high numbers we used to. This was the first year that I can remember there being 5 Munster Rankings and it has been a bit of a strain as there are just so many events and commitments that having any regular life is tough. We are facing into the Interpros both Senior and Junior and the All Ireland Schools and we are also taking three teams to the International Youth Cup in Belgium in May. So by no means are we at the end of the season but we are starting the last chapter before the Summer break.