Remembering when St Mary’s CBS dominated the table tennis scene
The table tennis exploits of Clonmel enthusiasts can be traced back many years, but, it made its breakthrough in October 1982 when introduced as an extra activity for the students of St Mary’s CBS, Irishtown.
Originally brought in for students who were not involved in other school games, it quickly caught the attention of the young competitive schoolgoers and soon amassed a membership in excess of 50 members.
Initially leagues were formed for the fifth and sixth classes, but once students shared their experiences of joy with friends and family members, boys of all ages were coached in the various skills of the game. This approach involved many long hours of training and coaching and was the procedure for several years under the watchful eye of Brother J. Devitt.
The boys crowned their first year in table tennis when they won the 1983 Munster Schools’ U/13 Table Tennis Championship and only just missed out in the All-Ireland final. In the same year Vincent Petit was picked on the Munster U/12 team to play in the Interprovincial series, with the team winning the bronze medal.
1984 proved a most memorable year when Vincent Pettit and John Lawless were selected to represent Munster in the Interprovincial series and created history when they won the U/12 Interprovincial title and became the first Munster team ever to win a title in any grade. Following this marvellous and historic success, Vincent and John teamed up with Anthony Wall, Patrick Fitzpatrick, Jimmy Quinn and Terry O’Brien to bring the first ever All-Ireland Schools Championship Title to Clonmel.
In 1985 Patrick Fitzpatrick and Vincent Pettit were successful once again, this time at U/14 level when they won the second ever Interprovincial title for Munster. In the same year, the Munster U/13 and U/15 Schools Championships were won with both teams runners-up in the two All-Ireland finals. The highlight of the 1985 season was when Vincent Pettit was picked to represent Ireland in an International Schools Table Tennis competition in Largs, Scotland and was a very worthy representative.
Over the years many notable successes were achieved by various players – DJ O’Dwyer, Barry O’Connor and Raymond Clarke represented Munster. Individual titles were won in various competitions around the country by John Lawless, Barry O’Connor, DJ O’Dwyer, Anthony Wall, Vincent Pettit, Alan Walsh, Kieran O’Mahoney, Declan Conlon, Gerard O’Dwyer, Nigel Byrne and Seamus Skehan. In 1986 Vincent Pettit claimed the Leinster Open Table Tennis Championships U/14 title, making him the Irish number one. Barry O’Connor won the U/14 Division One of the competition and Nigel Byrne was runner-up in the boys U/12 final, making him the Irish number two in that grade.