Ming is fancied to prevail tonight at AOH

CYRIL MING (Shantallow House) and Letterkenny’s Sean McVeigh (North West SC) meet tonight in the AOH Club in the final of the 2011 North-West Intermediate Snooker Individual Championship, sponsored by the family of the late Mick O’Reilly.

Although Ming and McVeigh’s considerable snooker prowess is long established, the pair are set to appear in their first NW Championship final. That said, there’s a valid excuse for their belated breakthroughs - lack of opportunities - as their starts at championship level have been few and far between.

Given both finalists are potent potters and accomplished break-builders, the potential for a ‘good game of snooker’ in tonight’s decider is clear. Without wanting to blow my own trumpet, Ming was this corner’s fancy for the title at the outset of competition, so now is hardly the time to hedge one’s bets and the Shantallow cueman receives the nod to have the edge in what promises to be a tight contest.

Last Week’s Results - Quarter-Finals - Keith Shiels (Shantallow), the defending champion, was dethroned 2-1 by Ralph Dixon (Du Pont), who lost the opener, but edged the remaining two frames in pink and black ball finishes. The match was highlighted by a lively second frame which saw the combatants compile 30 breaks apiece.

The remaining three matches all delivered comfortable 2-0 victories, with Owen Toland (Shantallow) beating Ciaran Kelly (AOH) 2-0. Cyril Ming (34 break) defeated Letterkenny’s Anthony McGill (CYMS), while Sean McVeigh (32 break) won in straight frames against North West SC team-mate Paul McGinley.

Semi-Finals - Ming booked his ticket to the final at the expense of Dixon, having took the first frame by a snug margin, before completing a 2-0 victory by shading frame two on the black.

McVeigh, who lost the opening frame on the black in his encounter with Toland (22 clearance), equalised in another black ball finish, but only after enjoying a stroke of good fortune when, needing the last two colours, he ‘fluked’ the pink. In contrast to the photo-finishes in the first two frames, McVeigh dominated exchanges to take the shoot-out frame in cosy fashion.

FACTFILE - The Intermediate Championship was innovated in 1975 to fill a vacuum for competitors who, theoretically, were deemed short of Senior Championship-winning material.

As it was, two players slipped through the net, namely Paul King (1986) and Seamus Conway (1997), both revealed as ‘hairy’ intermediate-graded combatants by competing the senior-and-intermediate ‘double’ in the same year.

Roll-of-Honour - Sean McVeigh or Cyril Ming will become the 35th player to be crowned champion in the intermediate grade - John Hutton (1975), Liam Cooley (1976), Dan Doran (1977), Brendan Begley (1978), Don Ponsonby (1979), Gerald Toner (1980), Johnny McCafferty (1981), Liam Lynch (1982), Colm McConomy (1983), Robert Brown (1984), Jason Prince (1985), Paul King (1986), Paul McWilliams (1987), Gerard Robb (1988), Declan Ferry (1989), Robert Curry (1990), Jim Allen (1991), Damien Tracey (1992), Nigel Feeney (1993-99), Seamus Conway (1994-97), Anthony Bonner (1995), Gerry McKeever (1996), Paul Doherty (1998), Paul McCann (2000), Paul McCafferty (2001), Phelim McClafferty (2002), Dermot Connor (2003), Brian McAleer (2004), Peter Doherty (2005), Simon Cooke (2006), Paul Keenan (2007), Chris Brown (2008), Emmett Casson (2009) and Keith Shiels (2010).

* Sean McVeigh bids to emulate Don Ponsonby, Anthony Bonner, Gerry McKeever, Paul Doherty, Phelim McClafferty and Brian McAleer as the seventh Letterkenny representative to lift the title.

* Limavady’s Malachy Irwin compiled 83 during a first-round outing at Maghera in 1983 (remains the Championship record break), while Paul Keenan’s 60 at AOH in 1996 continues to set the standard for the final.

TONIGHT - The Final - Sean McVeigh (Letterkenny NW) v Cyril Ming (Shantallow House), at AOH Club, 7-30 p.m.; Best-of-five frames (formal dress), the match officials are Seamus Gallagher, Joe Sims and John Clifford .