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Unfancied Latvian puts Murphy in spin

Vladislavs Agurjanovs caused something of a surprise at the first table tennis tournament of the season held at DCU.

Agurjanovs, aged 20, is originally from Latvia although his parents have lived in New Ross for some years. He came here two months ago after over four years playing in the German league.

A left-hander, ranked 782 in the world, Agurjanovs made it comfortably into the last 16 after the qualification tournament last weekend.

On finals day, players were then divided into two groups of eight and played seven preliminary matches before the play-offs, semi-finals and finals.

Although he had lost to Ashley Robinson in the group stages, Agurjanovs caused a stir when he dismissed Irish junior No1 Paul McCreery to book a place in the semi-finals.

He then qualified for the final by beating Irish international Gavan Maguire.

On the other side of the draw, Irish senior champion John Murphy beat Ashley Robinson in the semi-finals after an unbeaten run.

After a slight illness a week earlier, Murphy was beginning to feel the pace but, in the final, he started strongly, winning the opening set.

Agurjanovs kept in touch by taking the second. With honours even in the next two sets, it all came down to the fifth set tie-breaker. Murphy had the edge at 6-5 and then 9-8 but was making mistakes. It allowed his Latvian opponent to take the match at 12-10.

"I wasn't at my best and I made a few errors, but the better player won on the day," said Murphy, who hopes to fit in some practice with the young Latvian over the next few months.

Agurjanovs is now off to the European Championships in Odessa where he will play for Latvia.

With no Irish team travelling, Murphy now travels to England to play in the first UK Grand Prix tournament of the season in Medway.

"I'm going to stay in Ireland for the rest of this year, playing as many tournaments as I can and practising hard. After Christmas, I may try and get a place on a team in Europe," he said.

Both Amanda Mogey and Ashley Given, who met in the women's final, hope to make the Northern Irish team for the Commonwealth Games.