Ulster starlets Czech in for Ireland's bid at the 56th European Youth Table Tennis Championships
Six young Ulster players will compete for Ireland at the 56th European Youth Table Tennis Championships in Ostrava in the Czech Republic.
The tournament starts on Friday, running until Sunday week, with Ashley Givan, Hannah Lynch-Dawson (both Fivemiletown Academy), Emma Ludlow, Owen Cathcart, Rebecca Finn and Zak Wilson (all Glenburn) all competing.
Wilson in particular has had a great season, dominating the Under 14 Boys events and finishing top of the Irish rankings. He also claimed second spot in the Under 17 Boys ranking list, punching well above his weight throughout the five qualifying events.
The Newtownabbey youngster is one of the most naturally talented players on the domestic scene and the championships in Ostrava should help develop his play further.
Fellow Glenburn starlet Finn is also looking to build upon local successes and push forward at European level.
Cathcart, also from the renowned Glenburn club, should also figure prominently in the Czech Republic.
Ludlow – from Belfast and another Glenburn starlet – whose mother Anne was recently awarded the Irish Table Tennis Association (ITTA) Female Coach of the Year award, has had to juggle 13 GCSEs in recent weeks.
Despite that, she still maintained the high levels set by the coaching staff at Table Tennis Ulster (TTU).
Now Ludlow heads to the Czech Republic hoping to clock up some decisive wins.
Fivemiletown Academy has been the preparation ground for Co Tyrone's Lynch-Dawson and Givan.
The latter, having played some fine table tennis throughout Britain at various events this year, rounded off the season brilliantly by claiming the Irish National Senior title in Dublin, which for a player still in the junior ranks is a very impressive achievement.
The Ulster youngsters will join the rest of the Irish squad for lengthy practice sessions on the table and physically demanding sessions off it.
At a time when TTU have just announced the new Clubmark Scheme to help develop local table tennis clubs, and with these young Ulster players central to the Ireland squad, the sport continues to go from strength to strength.
The draw for the initial stage of the European Youth Table Tennis Championships sees Ireland's juniors grouped with Slovenia, Portugal, Finland and Latvia.
Ireland's cadet girls take on Slovakia, Turkey and Armenia, while the cadet boys face England, Ukraine and Scotland.
The event can be followed via facebook.com/TableTennisUlster or on twitter feed @ttulster