AS THE Sunderland and District Table Tennis season draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on the key highlights.
In Division One, Thompson Insurance A – represented by Darren McVitie, Andrew Wilkinson, Chris Blake, Marc Cotton, Diane Cartmell and player/manager Allan Thompson – underlined their dominance of the top flight with an eighth consecutive title, having finished the season unbeaten with 15 wins out of 15.
The battle for second place could not have been more closely contested with Durham CA A pipping St Chad’s into runners-up spot.
Both teams have strength in depth and the final league positions came down to the match results against each other – with Durham winning two of the three ties.
St Chad’s can take some comfort after being crowned Team Handicap Cup champions, with Saints’ Barry Cuthbertson also winning the singles handicap domestic competition.
It has been a difficult season with the temporary withdrawal of St Gabriel’s A due to personal circumstances.
There was also the mid-season withdrawal of Silksworth IM A, who were unable to field a full team due largely to the Barella brothers (Anthony and Graeme) being unavailable.
The two promoted sides, Sacriston St Bede’s A and Mortimer CA, performed valiantly throughout with some excellent individual wins over established top-flight players.
Both teams should be proud of their performances despite the relegation fate which potentially awaits them.
In Division Two, North East Bed Centre romped it, finishing champions by 18 points.
Dave Pringle and Alex Smith finished the season with 100 per cent records and were well supported by team-mates Gary Anderson and Tony Watson.
Sacriston St Bede’s B had an excellent season as runners-up ahead of West CA A, with Tony Taylor and Chris Grant being key players.
Mid-table Silksworth IM B and Redby CA A, while St John A have been relegated. The second relegation spot is yet to be confirmed.
St Gabriel’s B (currently lying second bottom) can overtake Durham CA B, and beat the drop, if they manage to record a maximum-points win over St John A in their final match.
In Division Three, St Gabriel’s led the league for long periods, only to be overtaken in the final stages by Redby CA B, who were represented by Joe Muldowney, Howard Forster, Allan Girdwood and Ian Wilson.
Both teams have previously played in Division Two and should give good accounts of themselves next season.
The fight for third place could not be any closer with St John B – represented by Jacob Helm, Sean Gleghorn and Robert Renton – currently just edging West CA B.
The lower division provides the opportunity for younger players to gain some valuable experience.
Special mentions therefore must go to Dan Nicholson (Sacriston St Bede’s C) and Simon Knopf (Sacriston St Bede’s D), who have both had an excellent season.
Lanchester CC now have a second season under their belts and continue to blood their younger players, hopefully they will come back stronger next season.
St John C finished the season without a win, picking up only one point for their determined efforts.
On a sombre note, the Sunderland and District Table Tennis Association sadly lost one of their most prolific players in April when Lynne Bainbridge passed away.
Lynne won 11 ladies singles championships, mixed titles and was awarded life membership by the Association in 2005 for her outstanding contribution to the league and sporting achievements.
The league’s thoughts continue to be with Lynne’s husband Tom and family.
Result, Division Three: Lanchester CC 2 St John B 8.