The weather has finally turned wintery with strong winds and regular rain. It thankfully has little effect on table tennis other than with the bad weather some of our players who are regular soccer and GAA players start turning up on our doorstep and numbers at all clubs have increased over the last 2 weeks. Bantry is thriving with 20 regulars now and we have a good mix of abilities and some a good squad of new young players. Many are younger siblings trying out the sport their brother or sister has enjoyed and they are in general a noisy and enthusiastic bunch. This of course brings new challenges to my coaching trying to juggle the needs of bringing on the established players as well as getting the new players “up and running.”
We had the West Cork Open last weekend and I was a little disappointed that not more players from Bantry took part but I was delighted that Donal and Cathal did take the opportunity to gain valuable experience at this higher level. It is still very much a “boys” club with only 4 regular girls but I will continue to try and attract more of the girls to play.
The Bantry Gaelscoil sessions have also increased in size with a fine bunch of new players replacing the very strong 6th class players of last season. The school has agreed to send a team to the up-coming Munster Schools League, we only have the one team travelling as it is so hard to get transport arrangements for the smaller schools. Lissagriffin NS is the smallest with only 12 students and this might be its last year competing in this competition with two of the team leaving and an estimated 7 students only next year. The very future of the school is in doubt let alone the table tennis team.
I am hoping that three teams from Schull Community College will compete this year with only two teams from the last 2 years it is a significant increase and I am hoping that the new 1st years will have a good performance, many of them were regular members of the Goleen Club but have now stop attending so they will be a bit rusty to say the least. The girls of Mercy Heights are not entering this year, the teacher explained that they were not too happy with the event last year as they felt the organiser was totally unsuitable for a children’s event, I did explain that it is “under new management” this year but they said they would be happy to get involved with a few local friendlies rather than take the risk of travelling away.
My new session at Abbeystrewry appears to be going well as numbers increase every week, I moved one of my own tables into the parish hall as they were on three very poor quality tables. They are in the process of ordering a brand new table and so we may have 5 tables in use in a week or so and with the increasing popularity that will be very helpful.
I was disappointed that I failed to persuade our top Special Needs player and paralympian Liam to play in the Band 2 competition at the West Cork Open. He went away to an Irish Paralympic training camp this weekend and appears to be enjoying the training, I just feel he needs more and a higher level of challenge if he is to make significant progress.
The Goleen sessions on Mondays are still very quiet with our regular elite players taking the opportunity to train but we only have two youngster coming at the moment with a third absent for a couple of weeks. They are only 8yrs but showing great improvement with so much individual attention, it is a shame that not more local parents give their kids a chance to try it out.
The Ulster Open is on the horizon in a couple of weeks and as I said the Munster Schools League later this week. We are still undecided about the Cardiff Open as flight times are a bit awkward but we may well still travel even if it is by ferry!
I am off to Limerick again on Tuesday so I’ll have to miss the CoAction session this week but with three secondary schools taking part I think it well worth the long drive. We may well have a 4th secondary school in Hospital Co. Limerick starting up as well and I am hoping that the Limerick schools will send a couple of teams to the Munster Schools for the first time. I am hoping to run a Co. Limerick schools event this season as well to take advantage of the new level of interest around the county. After Christmas my sights will turn to the Primary Schools in Waterford the second part of my Munster Kick Start initiative.
Still Christmas seems a long way off and with various meetings every night this week, not all table tennis related, I will be kept busy, I have to get Mair to an Irish Training Camp next weekend. I get the feeling I have missed out a couple of things I was going to comment on but that will have to wait until later on this month and my next blog.
Oh yes! A mention for the new adult session in Ballydehob; Mike has agreed to open the doors on a Tuesday for a group of local adult club players and I hope to call in on my way back from the Skibbereen session when I can. Good luck lads and hope to see you soon.