Table tennis star Niamh

Table tennis star Niamh

24 June 2020

A LOUGHINISLAND girl has the table tennis world in a spin.

Twelve year-old Niamh Mason is ranked No 2 in Ireland in her age group and has been selected for Ulster and Ireland squads.

She has also won one major championship and finished runner-up in another. Incredibly, she first picked up a bat three years ago while on holiday with her family.

It’s been a meteoric rise and, not surprisingly, Niamh eats, sleeps and drinks her sport.

“I just love table tennis,” she says. “You can’t be good at any sport if you don’t have a 

passion for it.”

Niamh’s road to potential stardom began at a campsite in France when she was just nine. 

“There was a table tennis table on the site and we just started playing,” her dad, Colin, explained.

“We could see she had an eye for the ball and that everything came naturally to her, so we took it from there.”

That winter Niamh went to Lisburn Rapid Table Tennis Club where she came under the wing of Jennifer Thompson, a former Irish No 1, who spotted her talent and provided her with encouragement and expert coaching.

In January this year she moved to Ormeau Table Tennis Club in Belfast in order to play at a higher level.

With the help of coaching from brothers Keith and Gervis Knox, the move has paid off.

Niamh was selected for the Ulster junior squad and, shortly afterwards, the Ireland junior squad after she impressed at trials held in Dublin.

She also won the Connaught Open, beating the Irish No 1 along the way, and finished 

runner-up in the Munster Open.

Niamh was due to go to the Isle of Man with the Ireland Schools team in April but, unfortunately, the Covid-18 pandemic intervened and put an end to competitions and training.

However, the lockdown hasn’t stopped her playing. 

She has her own table at home and regularly practises with her dad, who’s a useful player in his own right and a member of the Lisburn Rapid Club.

Says Colin: “We’re just trying to keep active. There was a time when I could have beaten her, but not any more.”

As for Niamh, she can’t wait for the lockdown to end and she can get back to normal service.

“You have to put in a lot of effort and training, but I don’t mind,” she says.

“That comes with any sport and I also enjoy the travel and the socialising.”