THERE was just no stopping Newry teacher Daryl Strong as he swept aside the opposition with relative ease at the County Antrim Open table tennis tournament in Ballyclare High School on Saturday.
The impressive Strong beat Ballyclare’s Phil Wallace to win the main event, while Jimmy Robinson (Craigavon) and Martin Pickles (Wolverhampton) also shone in the supporting classes.
Destroyer Strong didn’t even drop a set on his way to the singles title, which reflected his superiority on the day. Austrian Bernard Wagner battled well into the last 16 only to come across Strong and suffered the consequences. He then dispatched Cookstown captain Mark McAllister in the same manner. Next in line was Wallace Mahaffy who is a great entertainer with an exciting repertoire of shots, but having been out of the game for some time lacked the consistency required to trouble Strong who was too solid.
Fast Phil Wallace has a thunderous topspin artillery which often leaves opponents shellshocked, so when he overcame Ulster veterans Jimmy Robinson and Peter Clarke in quick succession the partisan home crowd hoped he could topple the favourite. But after starting like an express train against the number one seed in the final, his momentum was quickly halted with the ruthless precision of Strong’s counterhitting and his demise was swift.
Former Irish number two Robinson has been plagued with injuries in recent years, but really turned on the style in front of an appreciative audience when he overcame Paddy Guy (Carryduff) in a fast and furious four set class 2 semi before being pitted against ace defender Martin Pickles who can confuse the best with his combination bat trickery. However, experienced Jimmy was tactically aware and used controlled attack to see off his rival in a tight five setter before staging another “Robbo Rampage” in the veterans final where he beat Glenburn captain Norman Nabney in a match that neither player deserved to lose. Pickles quickly put his class 2 disappointment behind him to overcome the talented Andrew Davies in the class 3 final.
There were some great performances from the locals during the Newtownabbey Borough Council sponsored event, with Gary Crawford (Ballyclare), Philip Jamison (Larne) and Andrew Davies (Carnmoney) flying the flag for the Antrim League valiantly. Special mention must be made of Knockagh captain John Huyton who performed two giant killing acts by beating both Jimmy Robinson and Martin Pickles at the preliminary group stages.
Results: Singles - Semi Finals: Daryl Strong (Omagh) bt Wallace Mahaffy (Ballymoney) 3-0, Phil Wallace (Ballyclare) bt Peter Clarke (Hillsborough) 3-0. Final: Strong bt Wallace 3-0. Veterans: Jimmy Robinson (Craigavon) bt Norman Nabney (Belfast) 3-1. Class 2: Robinson bt Martin Pickles (Wolverhampton) 3-2. Class 3: Pickles bt Andrew Davies (Carnmoney) 3-0.