NW CH’SHIP SNOOKER: Chase for flagship title hots up

CONTENDERS . . . Anthony McGill (left) and Gareth Kirwan.  (1312SL13)
CONTENDERS . . . Anthony McGill (left) and Gareth Kirwan. (1312SL13)

THE LATEST results and forthcoming fixtures in the chase for gold medal accreditation in the 2016 running of the North-West Snooker Championship Olympics, starting with a preview of next Sunday afternoon’s quarter-final action at Shantallow House in the Hugh Brady Senior Championship.

This corner’s favoured four to move a stage closer to the game’s flagship title are Tracey’s Bar’s Gerald McCloskey and Anthony McGill, together with Letterkenny’s Gareth Kirwan and Adrian McFadden, even though the last-named potter is down to play a higher-graded opponent (Simon Cooke).

The Waterside cueman is up there with the best of them when on song, but seldom in tune in these high-profile matches (questionable temperament) and may well struggle to cope with the bang-in-form McFadden.

Ex-champions McCloskey (2008) and Maurice Ferguson (2011), the only seeds still standing in a renewal dotted with surprise results, are set to trade pots, the Tracey’s southpaw looking a solid bet on the current form-book to preserve hopes of further title glory.

McGill is rated a firm favourite to see off Rosemount’s Paul Keenan, while Kirwan should progress past lower-graded Harry Logan, although the seasoned Shantallow competitor is certainly competent enough on his own patch to make the Letterkenny player work hard for victory.

THE PAIRS – The hoodoo that has prevented any double-act winning the title three years on the bounce struck again when Gerald McCloskey & Anthony McGill suffered a shock defeat in the quarter-final stage.

The treble-seeking pair stood alone in the last-eight line-up as the only senior-graded combination still in contention. And in addition to the edge on quality, they had the luxury of table advantage, so it’s easy to see why the Tracey’s Bar potters were rated odds-on shots to complete the elusive three-in-row.

Proving the opposition were Martin & Shea Moore, the grandfather/grandson junior-graded alliance and there was little sign of an upset when the host club pair, assisted by McGill’s 31 break, took the opener by a cosy margin (66-17), the anticipated passage to the penultimate stage seemly well on course entering the colours in frame two (led by 26 points).

Then came the ‘watershed’ pot’ of the match when Shea ‘fluked’ the yellow from a ‘snooker’ and proceeded to clear the rest of the colours to snatch the equaliser (44-43). And the underdogs made good their escape, the exciting 16-year-old AOH teenage prospect back-boning a comfortable 69-35 victory in the shoot-outer with a break of 43.

In the remaining two matches, Letterkenny’s Gareth Kirwan & Adrian McFadden and Waterside’s Davy Clifford & Maurice Ferguson confirmed short-priced favouritism at the expense of junior-graded opposition. The CYMS cuemen beat Shantallow’s Phil Porter & Joe Sims 2-0, with McFadden posting a 38 sequence in frame one (55-14 and 63-37). The Glendermott potters also won in straight frames against the Over-the-Hill veteran duo of Eddie McColgan & Martin Young (70-34 and 52-27).

INDIVIDUAL LEAGUE – Peter Doherty was bidding for a record-equalling three-in-a-row, but he too fell at the quarter-final hurdle, an unexpected dethronement on his preferred surface, albeit not on the same level as the ‘Pairs’ shocker given conqueror Adrian McFadden is armed with the necessary firepower to beat the best.

Indeed, the Letterkenny player showcased his talent in the opening frame (excellent 83 compilation). Thereafter, the scoring was fragmented, the Shantallow man equalising without undue difficulty before his reign ended when McFadden edged the decider on the pink (83-4, 27-52 and 49-39).

In another Letterkenny/Shantallow encounter, Phelim McClafferty completed a double-strike for the Donegal flag bearers. He put a little touch of shine on his untroubled 2-0 decision over a sub-par Joe Porter with a tidy 32 run in the second frame (63-22 and 58-25).

Incidentally, this match was upgraded to semi-final status, the prospective opposition to McClafferty failing to show for their last-eight game, thus guaranteeing the CYMS cueist a belated return visit to the ultimate stage (2007 runner-up).

Gerald McCloskey bagged breaks of 37 (first) and 35 (second) en route to a bloodless straight frames victory over Tracey’s Bar colleague Phil McConomy (75-24 and 62-2).

McCloskey and McFadden, both in contention for NW Championship snooker’s pivotal ‘double’ (senior and league), eyeball each other next Monday night for the right to meet McClafferty in the final.

THE INTERMEDIATE – Ralph Dixon (Du Pont) and Shea Norris (Oak) booked their tickets to the decider, the Campsie cueman enjoying an unexpected cosy night at the semi-final office, defeating Shantallow’s out-of-touch Joe Porter (72-24 and 51-11).

Norris was well beaten in the opener by Steve Weekes (Glendermott), but took the remaining two frames, the second on the pink before completing his come-from-behind 2-1 by dominating exchanges in the shoot-outer (19-69, 65-51 and 79-31).

THE JUNIOR – Dean McAleese (Limavady) and Phil McConomy (Tracey’s) progressed to the ultimate stage courtesy of contrasting wins, the ‘Roesider’ beating Sean Paul McCauley (Dolan’s) without undue difficulty, albeit considerably assisted by a kind run of the balls (62-39 and 59-24).

McConomy diced with a photo-finish in the third frame to edge out the hapless Liam McDermott and thus deny an all-Limavady final. The Tracey’s cueist was in a spot of bother in the decider (25 points behind on the green), but made an excellent clearance to tie the scores before shading the verdict on the respotted black (57-49, 26-64 and 71-64).

NEXT SUNDAY – Hugh Brady (Snr) Senior Championship Quarter-finals – Anthony McGill (Tracey’s) v Paul Keenan (Top Break), at 2 pm; Gerald McCloskey (Tracey’s) v Maurice Ferguson (Glens), at 2 pm; Gareth Kirwan (CYMS) v Harry Logan (Shantallow), at 3 pm; Simon Cooke (Hollywood) v Adrian McFadden (CYMS), at 3 pm; Hosted by Shantallow House (best-of-three frames), the referees are Seamus Gallagher and Hugh Brady (2 pm), Joe Sims and Joe Porter (3 pm).

NEXT MONDAY – Alfie McGinley League Semi-final – Gerald McCloskey (Tracey’s) v Adrian McFadden (Letterkenny CYMS), at Shantallow House. Best-of-five frames (7-30 pm break-off), the referees are Seamus Gallagher, Harry Logan and Joe Porter.

THURSDAY, May 12th – Dungloe Bar Pairs Championship Semi-finals – Martin/Shea Moore v Gareth Kirwan/Adrian McFadden and Davy Clifford/Maurice Ferguson v Peter Doherty/Joe Porter (7-30 pm break-off at Tracey’s Bar).