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Dream of Ireland comes true for Derry table tennis star Sean

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Sean McAnaney will pursue a lifelong goal in September when he represents Ireland at the Home Nations Table Tennis Championships in the Isle of Man.

After decades in the sport, Sean’s passion for table tennis has taken him all over the world, where he has made a name for himself as one of the best players and coaches out there, as well as a great advocate for the sport itself.

Sean recently hit a long-term goal when he won the Irish National Masters Championships, a prestigious title that also put his country on the list for the upcoming Home Nations tournament in September. National team selection was always his goal, so winning the National Masters title was essential.

It’s huge, because having a national title in your pocket, at least for this neck of the woods, is huge, he said. I’ve been playing table tennis for a long time and I would be a little known around town, but there would never have been anyone from this corner of the woods who would have had a national title in table tennis. It would always have gone to the big cities like Belfast or Dublin.

They pick the Irish team for the home countries after the last tournament of the season, the national team, so I knew I had to do the right thing to give myself a chance.

In the quarter finals I had the winner from the previous years and I got through that. She in the semis, I had a guy named Phil Shaw from Cork who is number one at the moment, and I got through that. Then I met a guy named Terry Dolan from Galway in the final and I got through those comfortable three sets to zero and then I was told by the Irish council that I was on the Irish team for the Home Nations.

While table tennis may not catch the eye locally, Sean has spent a lot of time in China over the years perfecting his passion, making him a better player and coach.

Sean McAnaney with the National Masters Championship trophy.

I would have traveled to China a lot for coaching and training, so I would have a long band there over the years that helped me a lot, he admits. I would have been the first Irish player to go to China for training, which was over 25 years ago, and since then I have set up a School of Excellence in China for the development of table tennis for Irish players. I would bring top youth players to Chin for Covid, and that would have done me good. It’s taken a long time, but I’d say now I’m playing the best I’ve ever played.

Lifetime

Table tennis has been a lifelong love for Sean and he hopes to relaunch the sport’s growth in the city.
“I’m really excited to redevelop the game in the Northwest,” he continued. Even at the level of social activities, I like to pass on and try to get young people involved and give those who have played in the past the chance to get socially active and get involved again.

There is a group of people who play at Foyle Arena once a week. At the moment there are probably about 20 enthusiasts in Derry at the moment. But when I meet people outside they always ask me if there is table tennis somewhere because years ago it would have been known in the boys’ clubs, but now badminton, squash and table tennis have faded into the background in recent years.

But there are facilities available at the Foyle Arena and Templemore Sports Complex, and they have tables, so I’d like to bring it out because people may not realize there are facilities for it.

Sean has come a long, long way since playing in local leagues with Longtower and he is now preparing to represent his country on the biggest stage.

September is going to be a big day for me as I’m part of the Irish squad and it’s only a team of three, so I’m very lucky to have that under my belt, he concluded. I couldn’t have imagined ending the season in a better way, taking a national title and getting the Irish squad, just topped it off for me.

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