RONAN McDONNELL WINS DIVISIONAL TITLE
The Island Champion Ronan McDonnell added the DLP Adapted Bathrooms sponsored Divisional Singles Championship to his impressive list of table tennis titles at the NSC last Wednesday. The runner-up, Sam Bailey of ABC Arborists, never really got to grips with McDonnell’s fizzing backhand drives.
Surestrike Ramsey’s Tim Baker won the Division Two championship but he was pushed all the way by Paul Mathieson-Nelson who had recently ruined Baker’s unbeaten record in the league.
In the Third Division at 2-0 up in sets it looked like the second seed, young Billy Cain from Surestrike Ramsey, was going to cause the upset of the evening but the top-seed, Matt Harvey from Victory Roll Saints, bounced back to take the title.
All the competitors had been seeded based on their league average and were systematically allocated into groups. The round robin matches in each division had been played the previous week from which the top two performers in each group proceeded to the knock-out rounds. All the matches were played over the best of five sets and thanks to the slick organisation of Maggie Mulhern the tournament was successfully concluded on schedule.DIVISION ONE
WINNER – RONAN McDONNELL
The top seed McDonnell from Copy Shop had won all his group matches and was the first successful semi-finalist beating 7th seed Julian Briercliffe 11/5, 11/3, 11/9 in their quarter-final. The second quarter-final was between Tower’s Mike Bayley and Breakaway’s Keeran Chan. As they were the 12th and 14th seeds respectively it was always going to be a close match and so it proved to be. Chan attacked at every opportunity but Bayley pulled back from 1-2 down in sets to chop-out Chan 4/11, 11/8, 10/12, 11/8, 11/6.
Sam Bailey who had recently returned from working in Shanghai, where he had won a couple of local tournaments, had been seeded a lowly 11th based on just two league matches. Having disposed of the 3rd seed Hadyn McLarney and the 6th seed Jason Quirk in the group matches it was perhaps inevitable that Bailey would overcome substitute Graham McFarlane 11/7, 11/7, 11/4. McFarlane had made it to the quarter-finals following the non-availability of his Tower A team-mate Paul Kozlowski who had won the group in which McFarlane had finished third.
The 2nd seed Paul Corran reached the group stage having lost only one set. His opponent in the quarter-finals was the 8th seed Mike Tamarov who finished runner-up in this competition in 2013. Corran’s looping smashes had the pen-holder Tamarov darting from corner to corner in an effort take the ball on his stronger forehand side. However, Corran exploited Tamarov’s weaker wing to win 11/7, 8/11, 11/9, 11/7.
McDonnell advanced to the final with a relatively relaxed 11/2, 11/7, 11/7 win over Mike Bayley who couldn’t cope with the sheer speed of McDonnell’s attacking shots. The other semi-final between Sam Bailey and Paul Corran was like a prize fight slug-out. Both players employing tricky services followed up with lightning fast exchanges and forceful smashes. On seeding Corran should have won but Bailey battled through 11/9, 11/0, 11/8.
The standard of play in the final between McDonnell and Bailey drew spontaneous audience applause at the end of some amazing rallies. Bailey hadn’t lost a set on his way to the final but he quickly found himself two legs down. A few wise words from team-mate John Magnall seemed to do the trick as Bailey played a more controlled game to win the third set. Then McDonnell cranked up his fizzing backhands. Some shots which were simply unreturnable and McDonnell was victorious for the second time in three years. McDonnell’s winning score: 11/4, 11/7, 9/11, 11/6.
WINNER – TIM BAKER
Twenty players had taken part in the round robin stages and on the whole results went to form. The top seed Tim Baker, who had dropped down from the First Division to bolster up his Surestrike Ramsey B team, didn’t drop a set right the way through to the final. He met Copy Shop’s Malcolm Lambert in the first quarter-final and despite being 5/9 down in their first leg, he blasted through 11/9, 11/8, 11/1. Baker then met young Harry Walters from Peel B who had a bye into the semi-final because his quarter-final opponent Adam Davies was too ill to attend. Baker beat the 13th seed Walters 11/7, 11/8, 11/5.
In the other half of the draw the 2nd seed Paul Mathieson-Nelson, who played for Division One Travellers A last season, needed three tie breaker sets to scrape past 5th seed Malc Lewis representing Peel A. Their quarter-final match was as tight and exciting as the score suggests: 13/11, 13/11, 13/11. In the semi-final Mathieson-Nelson then met the 3rd seed Colin Brown who had ended the giant killing run of Peel B’s young Sasha Thomas. Brown won the encounter with 13th seeded Thomas 11/6, 11/5, 11/8 and had high hopes of making it to the final. However, Mathieson-Nelson was relentless in attack and he broke down the stalwart defence of Brown to win 11/5, 3/11, 11/9, 11/8.
The final between the top two seeds was effectively a decider because in the league Baker had beaten Mathieson-Nelson in their first encounter and Mathieson-Nelson had recently got revenge by ending Baker’s unbeaten record. Baker looked for the chance to launch his dipping forehand smashes and Mathieson-Nelson countered with blocks and backhand drives. On balance Baker was the steadier of the two players and took the 11/6, 2/11, 11/6, 13/11.
WINNER - MATT HARVEY
The top-seed Matt Harvey representing Victory Roll Saints had not dropped a set on his route to the quarter-finals so 4th seed Zac Walker should not feel too despondent as he won a leg but lost their quarter-final in a fourth set tie-breaker 6/11, 3/11, 11/6, 10/12. In the first semi-final Harvey beat Surestrike Ramsey’s Kerenza Baker who had earlier disposed of the 9th seed Jack Christian 11/5, 11/13, 11/7, 11/4. Baker, the 6th seed, seemed to lack the confidence to play her normal free-flowing game when up against Harvey, a St Ninian’s teacher, and so lost 11/6, 13/11, 11/7.
The third quarter-final was an all Surestrike Ramsey affair with the 2nd seed young Billy Cain playing the 3rd seed Frank Feeney. Cain went for his shots whilst Feeney tried to fend them off. There were almost as many mistakes as there were great hits, but Cain was the more determined player and after two tie-breaks Cain came through by the narrowest of margins 12/10, 13/11, 11/9. Cain’s surprise opponent in the second semi-final was the 12th seed, Copy Shop’s Freya Melvin, who played brilliantly to beat another St Ninian’s teacher 5th seed Matty Kelly 11/7, 5/11, 11/6, 7/11, 11/6 in their quarter-final.
Melvin began her semi-final against Cain full of confidence and won the first set quite convincingly. Cain played a steady top-spin offensive game in the second set whereas Melvin couldn’t control her enthusiasm and tried hitting winners on every shot. Melvin’s magical run ran out and Cain proceeded to the final 7/11, 11/8, 11/8, 11/9.
It was all going splendidly for Billy Cain in the first two sets of the final which he secured against Matt Harvey who seemed to be down and out. How wrong we were! Harvey hyped himself up whilst Cain went off the boil and lost the third set without scoring a point. The match was in the balance but momentum had swung Harvey’s way. Young Cain’s confidence had been drained and Harvey’s age and experience helped him take the divisional title in his first season of competitive table tennis. The score was: 5/11, 7/11, 11/0, 11/6, 11/7.
HARD BAT COMPETITION
There is a record entry for the Harold Wilcock Hard Bat competition which takes place next week. With handicaps ranging from 0 - 10 every player has a chance of winning this fun competition. For those knocked out in the round-robin group stage there will be an opportunity to win some chocolate money; if you are accurate enough!