THERE’S a serendipity to Ashley Robinson’s maiden Irish National Championship title, which also made him Tyrone’s first ever winner of the coveted crown.
The Clogher man defeated Ryan Farrell 3-1 in the final in Dublin but had Covid-19 not intervened the chances are the 26-year-old Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games representative wouldn’t even have been in the country.
He had been based at Loops Table Tennis Club in Melbourne, Australia, for almost two years prior to the Coronavirus outbreak which led to lockdown all over the world.
That led to the Irish Championships being postponed in April, and when Ashley returned home in June he had no idea when the event would be or if it would be rescheduled.
Initially, the Championships were due to have been played on August 22nd and 23rd, but further restrictions in the South meant they were cancelled only to be rescheduled for a week later, which seems all to have worked out well for Robinson.
The Tyrone man has a long association with the event, having made his debut over a decade ago, reaching his first final as a 17-year-old in 2011. It seemed inevitable that he would become the first player from the county to get his hands on the coveted trophy, but three more finals in the next few years all ended in defeat, leading to Ashley’s
dream fading before his eyes.
But at the weekend his long-held aspiration was realised when he finally got his hands on the prestigious trophy after beating Farrell in a close decider.
“I was delighted to win because I’ve lost four titles before. I lost my first final in 2011 when I was 17 and now I’m turning 27 this year,” he observed.
“It’s ridiculous because it’s been one of those bogey events for me. I had match points in some of those finals, so it’s one of those events that I just couldn’t get over the line.
“I’ve always been good enough and when I won it yesterday [Sunday] it was more relief and a weight off my shoulders to win it rather than pleasure of winning the event.
“It was more having a sigh of relief to have finally done it and to have finally won one.
“If this had never happened it would have been a massive regret, it’s the one title I’ve wanted for years.
“When I was in my first final at 17 I don’t think I knew how big it was, I was in the final and I lost and I shrugged it off, but then you look back at it and you see you got to the final when you were that young and actually had the chance to win it but it has taken another 10 years to actually do that!”
FULL STORY IN LAST THURSDAY’S ULSTER HERALD AND DUNGANNON HERALD..