Senior semi-finals next Monday, Intermediate and Junior champions crowned this week

Anthony McGill.
Anthony McGill.

North-West Championship Snooker 2016

THE FIVE ‘ringed’ events in the 2016 North-West Championship Snooker Olympics – Senior, League, Pairs, Intermediate and Junior – are all set to climax in the next few weeks, so this is exactly the time when those still in contention for gold medal accreditation will be sensing excitement, tension and apprehension.

Simon Cooke.

Simon Cooke.

This week heralds the crowning of the champion players in the intermediate and junior grades (Thursday and Friday), but we’ll start with a preview of next Monday night’s semi-finals of the Hugh Brady (Snr) Senior Championship, hosted by Shantallow House.

The contenders for the game’s flagship gold medal includes Gerald McCloskey, the lone ex-champion among the quartet (2008). Now in the twilight of his star-studded career, the 50-year Tracey’s Bar southpaw can still cut the mustard at the highest level and it would come without surprise if he bridged the eight-year gap and paid a second visit to the victory rostrum.

That said, McCloskey will be well aware he faces a stiff semi-final outing against Anthony McGill, a player armed with the necessary firepower to beat anyone and certainly a potent threat to his club companion’s aspirations of regaining the title.

The Verdict – The heat of the semi-final furnace provides a real mettle-tester for all combatants and, with this in mind, my money is on the more battle-hardened and experienced McCloskey to have the edge.

Gerard McCloskey.

Gerard McCloskey.

The other semi-final rests involves Wateride’s Simon Cooke and Letterkenny’s Gareth Kirwan, both armed with top-drawer talent. A real forecast fence-sitter in my book as, notwithstanding their undoubted ability, the pair lack the merit of consistency and the outcome seems likely to be all down to which of the two produces the better form on the night.

Quarter-final Results – McCloskey defeated Maurice Ferguson 2-0 in the battle of the ex-champions (the Glendermott player peaked in 2011). In contrast to a rather fortuitous verdict in the first frame, the Tracey’s southpaw anchored an emphatic win in frame two with a 62 break (75-55 and 84-14).

McGill was in a spot of bother when Rosemount’s Paul Keenan took the opener and led by 17 points on the yellows in frame two. He got out of jail with a colour clearance and made good his escape by dominating exchanges in the shoot-outer (32-59, 45-35 and 59-14).

Harry Logan flew out of the traps in his encounter with Kirwan, the Shantallow player posting breaks of 45 and 23 to take the opener in runaway fashion. The CYMS cueman was undeterred, however, and sealed a 2-1 decision by dominating exchanges in the remaining two frames (10-76, 67-19 and 64-34).

Gareth Kirwan.

Gareth Kirwan.

Cooke preserved compensation hopes for a silver medal podium finish (2011) when progressing past Letterkenny’s Adrian McFadden in straight frames (54-17 and 67-40).

Next Monday Night – Semi-finals – Gerald McCloskey (Tracey’s) v Anthony McGill (Tracey’s), 7-30 pm; Simon Cooke (Dee’s) v Gareth Kirwan (Letterkenny), 7-30 pm; Hosted by Shantallow House (best-of-five frames), the referees are Seamus Gallagher, Joe Sims, Hugh Brady and Harry Logan.

LEAGUE FINAL DATE – Monday 29th May is the date pencilled in for the final of the Alfie McGinley Premier Individual League, an all Letterkenny decider between Phelim McClafferty and Anthony McGill (previewed in next Tuesday column).

Gerald McCloskey’s ambitions of a record-equalling hat-trick of Premier Individual League titles (under the play-off formula) were dashed by McFadden when the pair met last week in in the penultimate round.

The Letterkenny player, making a quick return from his Senior Championship exit, showed he was none the worse by upstaging his higher-graded opponent (2-0). After a ‘quiet’ opening frame, the match was set alight by well-constructed breaks from both competitors in a second frame cracker. McCloskey (48 sequence) was 23 ahead with five reds remaining, only to see his treble hopes evaporate when McFadden compiled a superb 52 clearance (54-29 and 85-56).

PAIRS FINAL DATE – The date for the final of the Dungloe Bar Pairs Championship , hosted by Tracey’s Bar, has been set for Wednesday week (25th May).

After several years of trying, the Shantallow House alliance of Peter Doherty & Joe Porter finally impacted the ‘Pairs’ by reaching he ultimate stage. In last Thursday night’s semi-final breakthrough success, the Racecourse Road duo defeated the 2011 title-winning double-act of Glendermott’s Davy Clifford & Maurice Ferguson (51-39 and 63-39).

THE INTERMEDIATE FINAL – Ralph Dixon (Du Pont) and Shea Norris (Oak Grove) share centre stage this Thursday night in the final of the NW Intermediate Championship, sponsored by the family of the late Mick O’Reilly and hosted by Tracey’s Bar.

The Campsie cueman, a seasoned campaigner with more substance on his CV compared to his opponent (twice winner of the ‘Pairs’ and several major team medals), should prove hard to beat. However, the Oak potter has excelled on the road to ‘Wembley’, claiming the select scalps of Richard Long (defender), Maurice Ferguson and Steve Weekes, and a repetition of that sort of smart form would spell trouble with a capital ‘T’ for his opponent.

Millennium Champions – 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), Keith Shiels (2010), Sean McVeigh (2011), Stephen Brady (2012), Gareth Kirwan (2013), Anthony McGill (2014) and Richard Long (2015).

Record Breaker – Sean McVeigh sets the standard for highest compilation (88 at AOH in 2012), the same player holding the top break bragging rights for the final (72 at AOH in 2011).

Thursday night’s night’s final cues-off at 7-30 pm; Best-of-five frames (formal dress), the match officials are Seamus Gallagher and Joe Sims, Harry Logan and Joe Porter (overseers).

THE JUNIOR FINAL – Dean McAleese (Limavady) or Phil McConomy (Tracey’s) will become the 39th potter to be crowned North-West kingpin in the junior snooker grade following the conclusion of this Friday night’s final, hosted by Shantallow House.

Both players bid to open their Championship winning accounts, the ‘Roesider’ afforded a feasible excuse for his maiden tag (relative newcomer), whereas the Tracey’s Bar southpaw has multiple miles on the clock.

Indeed, McConomy’s Championship career can be traced back to the 1980s (without impact), so his prominence this season is something of a revelation. And I’m not referring to his place in Friday’s final, but a performance of more consequential dimension when qualifying for the play-offs in the hotly-competitive Premier Individual League (a credible achievement for a junior-graded contender, for sure).

For his part, McAleese made his debut four years ago, a runner-up dividend from the AOH Club’s £1,000 Handicap Tournament ‘big pot’ (2014) marking him down as a newcomer of significant ability. While the Limavady cueist seems sure to make a bold attempt to shred his maiden tag, if McConomy gets anywhere near his Premiership form, he will be very hard to combat.

Millennium Champions – Simon Cooke (2000), Jason Brown (2001), Peter Doherty (2002), Glenn Roulston (2003), John Blee (2004), Darren McGavigan (2005), Anthony McGill (2006), Aaron Walsh (2007), Colm Quinn (2008), Davy Clifford (2009), Jan Biernat (2010), Damien O’Carroll (2011), Ralph Dixon (2012), Fergal Toland (2013), Shea Norris (2014) and Harry Logan (2015).

Record Breakers – Owen Toland’s 85 at Shantallow House in 2007 sets the highest sequence standard... A 55 compilation from Noel McGinley (jun) at NWIABSA Club in 1985 has stood the test of time (remains the only half-century break in the final).

Friday night’s final breaks-off at 7-30 pm; Best-of-five frames (formal dress), the match officials same as intermediate decider.