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McCreery has rivals in spin

WITH the Butterfly National Table Tennis Championships taking place at DCU this Saturday, Irish players warmed up with some classy performances at the Cardiff Open in Wales.

Paul McCreery took both the men's open singles and the men's band 1 title, and looks a good bet to take the men's open singles title at the Nationals for the first time.

In the women's open singles, last year's Irish champion Na Liu, who has since declared for the UK, took the title.

Irish No1 Amanda Mogey produced a spectacular performance to defeat the top Welsh player Naomi Owen, who is rated significantly higher than her in the ITTF world rankings.

With a wealth of young talent emerging in Irish table tennis, picking likely winners for this weekend is a hazardous task.

In last year's men's singles final, Gavin Maguire of the Eastpoint club produced an astonishing comeback to beat defending champion John Murphy from UCD in a thrilling five-setter.

Both could struggle against emerging stars such as McCreery, whose wins at the Munster and Fermanagh Opens as well as in Cardiff means he goes into the tournament as top seed.

Maguire will be back to defend his title, while youngsters such as Sam Logue and Ashley Robinson will be inspired by Maguire's heroic performance last year.

Of the more experienced campaigners, Murphy won the title in 2008 and 2009, and has shown improved form in recent weeks, with wins in the Ulster Open and the Leinster Grand Prix to his credit.

Others in contention include Daryl Strong and Conor Nolan. Among the unseeded dark horses are Peter Graham, who has been playing in France, and Keith Knox, returning from injury.

With defending champion Na Liu not entered, Amanda Mogey, beaten in last year's final, tops the rankings.

Apart from her good display in Cardiff, Mogey won the Fermanagh Open a few weeks ago. Also from Ulster comes 14-year-old Ashley Givan, winner of the Munster title, and the reliable Claire Nelson.

Leading the Leinster challenge are Sara Dolan and Rebecca Kenny, while one to watch is the much-improved Sarah Timlin.

Play starts in DCU at 9am, with finals from 4pm. Singles and doubles competitions will be played.