Ashley Givan and John Murphy out to defend Ulster titles
Power NI Ulster Table Tennis Open title holders John Murphy and Ashley Givan find themselves seeded in eighth position in this weekend's Men's and Women's Singles respectively.
Both stars have moved on from their memorable 2013 successes, with five-time national champion Murphy now employed as the Ulster High Performance Coach, and 18-year-old Givan, fresh from the Glasgow Commonwealths, is at QUB as a Media Studies Fresher.
Neither champion can argue with the Power NI Seeding Committee which has placed Scottish extrovert Gavin Rumgay as favourite to take the impressive £1,000 Men's top prize.
Another Glasgow 2014 athlete, Hannah Lynch-Dawson, from Cavan, who recently became the No 1 woman in Ireland, is the leading female in the three-day table tennis extravaganza in the Lisburn Rackets Centre, supported by Lisburn City Council, Power NI, Table Tennis Ulster, Volunteer Now and Disability Sport NI.
Over 200 entries have now been confirmed with Scottish No 1 Rumgay, a nine-time Scottish Champion and winner of 34 Grand Prix events, the leading target for the males, but he will be hotly pursued by another multi-national champion and Commonwealth medallist, Ryan Jenkins of Wales.
English No. 3 Chris Doran, who is in top form after taking the Senior Six Nations title last weekend, is also in the mix.
Ulster hopes rest on the shoulders of 22-year-old National champion Paul McCreery from Crossgar, home from Nottingham University studies, and Clogher's promising protege Ashley Robinson, who is 21 and currently playing full-time in Sweden.
Play commences at 6.30pm this evening with the Men's and Women's Singles qualification rounds and Restricted Singles qualification round.
Tomorrow, the main events, from 9.00am onwards, are the Junior (U11 & U15), U21 Singles and Senior Events with the main quarter-finals scheduled for 6.00pm.
The final sessions are on Sunday with Junior (U13 & U18), Veterans and Disability Events.