Mary Peters Trust athlete
Year 9 at St Malachy’s College Belfast
Ormeau Table Tennis Club
Achievement I’m most proud of
Gaining a place on ‘Eurotalents’; winning ‘Primary Schools International’; Joining Team GB’s Olympic programme.
What is your current goal
Medium term: to win a medal at the European Youth Championships. Long-term: to play professionally for a French or German club.
‘I love playing table tennis. Even the sound of the ball being hit can be really addictive’ says teenage table tennis sensation Peadar
Sports star in the making, Peadar Sheridan is a dab hand a playing table tennis whilst riding a unicycle. Confused? Well, it’s because Peadar’s twin brother Ruarcc loves running, juggling, unicycling and basically all things circus related. Ruarcc is part of Belfast based arts organisation Circusful and has passed on some of his tricks to twin brother Peadar.
Their dad, an IT consultant, was the first in the family to take up table tennis. It was in his 40s and a work placement student introduced him to Ormeau Table Tennis Club. Ormeau was set up in 2013 by the Knox brothers Keith, Gervis and Trevor, and it’s where Peadar has developed his love of and talents for table tennis.
Following in his dad’s footsteps, Peadar and Ruarcc’s older brother Senan started playing table tennis at Ormeau when he was nine. The twins decided to have a go and whilst Ruarcc decided after a few weeks that it wasn’t for him, Peadar was hooked and just seemed to take it all in by osmosis. He joined the club aged six and hasn’t looked back since.
Senan is now 16 and whilst he still plays some table tennis socially, his main focus is on music. Senan is a member of the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra, where he plays violin and piano.
For Peadar, April 2023 was a huge month in his table tennis career. He was awarded a place on ‘Eurotalents’ – the European Table Tennis Union’s talent identification programme. He also joined Team GB’s Olympic programme – ‘GB Start’ and won ‘Primary Schools International’, a major UK wide tournament.
Peadar and his dad reckon that securing a place on the GB Olympic programme is the most significant achievement of the three, enabling Peadar to travel to Nottingham University – Team GB’s Centre of Excellence for table tennis. On average he trains in Nottingham once a month and can accompany the GB squad on World Tour Events, whilst still playing for Ireland.
Being part of Eurotalents means Peadar gets together with the best European players in his age group three times a year at special training camps held in countries such as France, the Czech Republic and Romania.
All of these are amazing learning and development opportunities, hopefully leading Peadar to a Commonwealth Games and/or an Olympics. The 2026 Commonwealths (though the host nation has yet to be finalised) is something Peadar is already thinking about. Los Angeles 2028 and Brisbane 2032 are on the horizon when Peadar will be only 17 and 21 respectively.
One incredible training opportunity took place in December 2023 when he spent 3 weeks in Shijazhuang near Beijing in China at a table tennis Centre of Excellence. It’s the same venue where the Chinese national team prepare for major competitions. The Chinese are at the top of the game in terms of table tennis, followed by South Korea and Japan.
“It’s for trips like these that Mary Peters Trust funding provides vital help”, says Peadar.
“The time I spent in China at the end of last year was the best training camp I have ever been on.
It included eight Team GB players, but we only played with Chinese sparring partners rather than each other. The intensity and quality of the training was second to none and I feel that my game went up a level during this trip. It was my first time travelling outside Europe and it was a fantastic experience. Although it was the coldest December ever recorded in Beijing, so venturing outside wasn’t always so enjoyable!”, he adds.
“Support from the Trust is of huge benefit. It’s been instrumental in enabling me to attend development camps like the one in China, helping me to improve my skills and technique.”
Medium term Peadar would love to medal at the European Youth Championships and go on to play professionally for a European club in either France or Germany. Fellow Ormeau Club members such as Paul McCreery have done that very successfully, so Peadar has many role models.
Now aged 13 and in Year 9, one of Peadar’s main challenges is juggling schoolwork alongside training. His school, St Malachy’s College in North Belfast, is very supportive. His mum is a maths and economics teacher and is well equipped to keep an eye on Peadar’s studies, supporting him with homework and general progress.
If Peadar needs to be away for competitions the school posts work on Google Classroom – something Peadar got into the swing of during the Pandemic. St Malachy’s are very proud of Peadar’s achievements and whilst table tennis isn’t a key sport for the College, Peadar has represented St Malachy’s at the Ulster Schools Individuals tournament, where he won the Under 16 event. In 2024 he aims to represent the school in the Under 19 event.
In terms of academic subjects at school Peadar prefers the sciences and would like to study dentistry post A-Levels. It’s not a job role that’s been in the family, but Peadar has been inspired by a famous Greek table tennis player called Panagiotis Gionis.
Peadar explains, “Gionis is a qualified dentist yet was able to maintain a top 100 World Ranking for many years and take part in four Olympic Games. I would like to follow in his footsteps by being a top professional player and have a career in dentistry.”
Coaches play a big part in Peadar’s training and development. The Knox brothers, founders of Ormeau, are his club coaches and when at home Peadar trains almost every day taking in a mix of club group sessions as well as dedicated one to one individual training. Keith Knox accompanied Peadar to a World Table Tennis Tour event in Helsingborg, Sweden at the start of last summer, then Gervis Knox accompanied him to the Euro MiniChamps in Schiltigheim, France at the end of the summer.
Also playing a key role in Peadar’s development are Ireland coach Conn Higgins, a retired school principal from Cork, and Welsh native Ryan Jenkins, who is lead coach on the GB Start programme.
Both Conn and Ryan travel extensively across Europe with Peadar and other members of the Ireland and GB squads, attending various training camps and competitions.
Peadar is indebted to all his coaches but has special mention for the Knox brothers from Ormeau who have been with him from the very start. “I would like to thank them for all their help and hard work – they are brilliant and have contributed so much.
“I love playing table tennis. There’s something really satisfying about playing well. Even the sound of the ball being hit can be very addictive.”
Peadar’s parents acknowledge how fantastic table tennis is for their son, “He’s travelling the world and has made so many friends from lots of different countries. Peadar picks up snippets of languages so that he can chat to fellow competitors in their native language. He’s also very adventurous with international cuisines and tries lots of interesting dishes. There aren’t too many 13-year-olds who get the opportunity to do that!”