WINNER TAKES ALL!
IT'S win or bust for Academy Strongtower Legends ahead of a thrilling final night of action in the race for County Antrim Table Tennis League Division One glory.
No other result than a victory will be good enough for the Ballymena team to pip Restaurant 1608 when the sides clash in a title decider at Ballymena Academy next Tuesday, March 23, when Legends will hope to have the services of their number one and Ulster’s top veteran Pawet Sulkowski at their disposal.
Legends slipped up in the title race last week when they were held to a 5-5 draw against Knockagh A in Greenisland.
Knockagh A 5, AS Legends 5: The match started well for Legends as David Sulkowski won a tight opening singles against Ian Calvert 11-6, 9-11, 11-6 and 12-10.
Wayne Charleton made it two games to nil when he took the scalp of Knockagh’s Garry Ferson in five sets of attack and counter attack table tennis 4-11, 11-7, 9-11, 12-10, 11-6.
Harry Ferson started the Knockagh revival as he defeated Adam McIlmoyle in straight games. Ian Calvert then put the teams level by winning a five set classic against Wayne Charleton 4-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-13 and 11-6.
Adam McIlmoyle put up an excellent show against Garry Ferson but despite some great serving and looping he lost out in four sets 11-9, 11-9, 7-11, 11-7. Knockagh had now a slender three games to two lead.
Legends squared the match when Dawid Sulkowski had a comfortable straight sets win against Harry Ferson 13-11, 11-8 and 11-6. However, Ian Calvert was too steady for Adam McIlmoyle, winning 11-6 in the fourth set.
But there was no stopping Dawid Sulkowski on the night as he fought back from a set down to defeat Garry Ferson in four action packed sets 12-14, 13-11, 11-9 and 11-5 and the match was once again all square. In the final singles, the clash of the captains, Wayne Charleton continued his fine vein of form to defeat Harry Ferson in four sets.
It looked like the AS Legends were heading for a hard fought victory when they edged into a two set lead in the doubles 11-9 and 11-8 but Knockagh had other ideas winning the last three sets 11-7, 11-5 and 11-5. MOM - Dawid Sulkowski (AS Legends).
AS Towers 4, Larne A 6: Towers’ David Witherspoon was somewhat overwhelmed by Roy Camlin in the first set losing it 11-1. But he regained his composure to edge the second set 11-9.
The third set could have went either way but Roy’s experience saw him take the set 11-9. The fourth set was not as close with Roy winning comfortably 11-5.
Towers’ Captain Kenneth Johnston had a slow start against Ryan Martin losing it 11-6. Kenneth however showed his true competitive spirit by digging in and playing some exceptional defensive table tennis to win the next three sets 11-6, 11-7 and 11-9.
The third match saw Frank Allen against Larne’s teenage sensation James McGuinness. Frank played some of his best table tennis of the year and should have won the match in four sets. But he let the fourth set slip away 13-11 and could not regain his composure in the final set losing it 11-5.
David Witherspoon had an excellent straight sets win over Ryan Martin 11-8, 15-13, 11-4 and Kenneth Johnston defeated James McGuinness in four sets 8-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-9. to restore the AS Towers lead.
The next two singles went to the visitors with Roy Camlin defeating Frank Allen and James McGuinness defeating David Witherspoon - both matches being won in straight sets.
With Larne now in the driving seat the match of the night saw Kenneth take out Larne’s number one Roy Camlin in five sets to top table tennis 9-11, 11-7, 11-13, 11-4 and 11-7. With the match all square, Frank Allen had an excellent tussle with Ryan Martin, losing somewhat unluckily 10-12, 11-7, 7-11, 10-12.
The outcome of the match rested with the doubles and it was the experienced Larne duo of Camlin and Martin who prevailed to take all three points winning 11-4, 11-7 and 11-9. MOM Kenneth Johnston (AS Towers).
Knockagh C 4, AS Jazz 6: AS Jazz had a good result away to the Knockagh C team that due to an injury could only field two players. With a three nil advantage to AS Jazz the match turned out to be the Kevin McElroy show as the Jazz captain won his two singles and teamed up with Michael Witherspoon to win the doubles and thereby the match.
Michael Witherspoon and Jonny Moore – making his Division 3 debut – had chances against the Knockagh captain Mike Maguire but both lost out narrowly in four sets. MOM - Kevin McElroy [AS Jazz].
AS Eagles 2, AS Tigers 8: Eagles were missing their influential captain Eva Richards for this match and despite the team’s best efforts they slumped to an 8-2 defeat.
The match of the night saw AS Eagles number one take on Darren Tweed in a five set classic with the latter emerging victorious 11-2 in the fifth set. Michael McMullan extended the AS Tigers lead with a straight sets win against Michelle Taylor 11-8, 11-6 and 11-7. Stephen Witherspoon made it three nil to the as Tigers with a four set victory over AS Eagles stand in Emily Scott.
Kathryn Moore managed to get a game back for the AS Eagles with a four set victory over Michael McMullan but Michelle Taylor was just pipped by Stephen Witherspoon in the fifth set to nip in the bud the chance of any AS Eagles comeback.
Emily lost in straight sets to Tigers captain Darren Tweed and although Kathryn managed a fine win over Stephen Witherspoon in the next singles it was the AS Tigers that roared to victory with Darren Tweed defeating Michelle Taylor and Michael McMullan defeating Emily Scott before teaming up to win the doubles over Kathryn and Michelle. MOM - Darren Tweed (AS Tigers).
AS Nuggets 0, Restaurant 1608 C 10: Ballymoney-based Restaurant 1608 C look unstoppable as they march ever closer to lifting the Division Four title.
Only George Graham could manage to take a set going down in four sets to Noel McCann. Kyle Bonnes and Ryan Herbison fought gallantly against the talented Restaurant team but couldn’t make any inroads against David McMichael, Thomas McCann or Noel McCann.
The continued absence of the AS Nuggets number one David McCluggage did not help the Nuggets cause but it is unlikely that his inclusion would have changed the score against this formidable Ballymoney squad. MOM - David McMichael (Restaurant 1608 C).
AS Thunder 6, AS Wizards 4: AS Thunder were very fortunate to win this game against the ever improving AS Wizards team of Eddie Kosch, Philip Martin, Adam Steele and Aaron Steele.
Eddie Kosch put the Wizards ahead with a straight sets win over Jonny Moore. Philip Martin made it two nil for the Wizards with a close five set victory over Andrew Herbison. AS Thunder’s chance of securing runner-up spot in Division 4 was now seriously in jeopardy.
Peter McCrum, in a must win game for Thunder, had a straight sets win against Aaron Steele and captain Jonny Wilson brought the game level with a 12-10 win over Adam Steele in the fifth set.
Eddie Kosch restored the AS Wizards lead with a straight sets win over Andrew Herbison. But Jonny Moore brought the game level again at three all with a straight sets win over Philip Martin. Aaron Steele recorded a fine five set win over Jonny Wilson and the AS Wizards led once more.
Peter McCrum pulled the match back to four all with a fine straight sets win against Adam Steele. The match would now be decided on doubles and it was the AS Thunder that emerged victorious in both sets so maintaining their hopes of a top two finish in the League. MOM - Eddie Kosch (AS Wizards).
AS Blaze 9, AS Hawks 1: AS Hawks kept the pressure on the AS Thunder with a comfortable win over the AS Hawks. Dermot McElroy and Emma Johnston won all of their singles against Matthew Campbell Chris Fullerton and Jonah Gardner and they were ably supported by Rachel Johnston who defeated Matthew and Jonah but who lost out to Chris Fullerton in five sets.
Blaze must win all their remaining fixtures to grab second spot in the league and with performances like this it is a distinct possibility.
The last match of the season sees them play the AS Thunder – it could be a very interesting game indeed. MOM - Emma Johnston (AS Blaze).
Academy Strongtower table tennis club are to host two tournaments in the near future.
On Saturday, March 27, the first the Ulster Junior Team event is to be held at the club premises with a few teams from the club hopefully participating in the competition.
Two weeks later, on Saturday, April 10, the concluding Ulster Seniors ranking tournament – The North Antrim Open - is to be held at the club together with Class 2, Class 3 and Class 4 competitions.
The graded tournaments provide an excellent opportunity for lesser players to get some competitive table tennis and silverware before the conclusion of the table tennis season.
Amanda Mogey completes her coaching sessions at the club this week.
The club would like to thank her for the effort and commitment she has shown throughout the six weeks training and would highly recommend her to other table tennis clubs seeking a coach.