SNOOKER: Knife-edge climax to Premier League title race

Sean Dolan's GAC, who near enough settled their relegation worries with a productive 5-0 home outing at the expense of Tracey's '147' when the pair met last Thursday night in the North-West Snooker Handicap League Division One. From left  Sean Paul McCauley, Kevin McKeever, Warren Rogan and Cormac Carlin. DER0716GS066

Sean Dolan's GAC, who near enough settled their relegation worries with a productive 5-0 home outing at the expense of Tracey's '147' when the pair met last Thursday night in the North-West Snooker Handicap League Division One. From left Sean Paul McCauley, Kevin McKeever, Warren Rogan and Cormac Carlin. DER0716GS066

THE DESTINATION of this season’s Premier Snooker League hangs in the balance as CYMS and Oak Grove enter next Monday’s finishing straight separated by the minimal margin.

And with the pair set to sign off by locking horns at the Bishop Street venue, the clash adds salt and pepper to the curtain-down menu.

The Letterkenny title custodians hold the single point edge, so it’s a must-win situation for the Oak outfit, a feasible target on their own patch. While the 2016 champions will most probably be crowned next Monday night, there’s a wee fly in the ointment (Shantallow House). In theory, the Racecourse Road team could still force a title tie-breaker, but need to sign off with the six-point harvest and then hope the ‘big match’ at the Oak ends in a 4-2 home win or 3-3 draw.

The initial encounter in the CYMS and Oak head-to- meetings, held last week at Letterkenny, stalemated in a contest of considerable quality, dotted with decent breaks. Frame-winners for the leaders were Johnny Connors (2-0) and Gareth Kirwan (1-1), with six-time senior champion Connors marking his seasonal debut with a solid display. Stephen Brady’s 2-0 victory, added to Shea Norris’ 1-1 cameo, earned the Bishop Street team a satisfactory share of the points which restricted the Donegal defenders’ advantage to the minimal margin for next Monday night’s eagerly-awaited ‘showdown’.

Shantallow owe their 4-2 win at Tracey’s Bar to Peter Doherty and Joe Porter (2-0 apiece), with Doherty claiming the select scalp of the home side’s talismanic Gerald McCloskey (first 2-0 reverse of the campaign). Emmett Casson struck twice for the William Street side.

Two-nil match-winners for Dee’s in a 4-2 foray to Oak ‘B’ were Stephen Heaney and Maurice Ferguson, with ‘comeback kid’ Seamus Conway replying for the hosts (first straight frames victory from 15 starts). Conway’s duck-breaker at the expense of Waterside top-shot Simon Cooke begs the question - “Has the one-time iconic ‘Wizard of Oak’ finally dusted off the cobwebs from his magic wand?”

AOH and Limavady both stalemated in respective home starts against CYMS ‘B’ and Tracey’s ‘147’, while Oak ‘B’ defeated Limavady 5-1 in a backlog fixture at the Bishop Street bar.

CYMS 3, OAK 3 – breaks in brackets - Phelim McClafferty 0 (36), Stephen Brady 2 (38 and 32); Johnny Connors 2 (38 and 37), Paul Donaghy 0; Gareth Kirwan 1 (53), Shea Norris 1 (32).

TRACEY’S 2, SHANTALLOW 4 – Emmett Casson 2, Pete Murphy 0; Gerald McCloskey 0, Peter Doherty 2 (38 break in each frame); Gavin Gallagher 0, Joe Porter 2.

OAK ‘B’ 2, DEE’S 4 – Gregory McCann 0, Stephen Heaney (43 break); Shea Conway 2, Simon Cooke 0; Jan Biernat 0, Maurice Ferguson 2.

AOH 3, CYMS ‘B’ 3 – Ray Barrow 2, Marc McCarron 0; Shea Moore 0, Adrian McFadden 2; Seamus Cusack 1, Paul Doherty 1.

LIMAVADY 3, TRACEY’S ‘147’ 3 – Liam McDermott 0, Phil McConomy 2; Karl Doherty 1, Hugh Campbell 1; Dean McAleese 2, Mal McIvor 0.

OAK ‘B’ 5, LIMAVADY 1 – Shea Conway 2, Dean McAleese 0; Gregory McCann 2, Karl Doherty 0; Jan Biernat 1, Liam McDermott 1.

HOW THEY STAND – played 102 frames except shown in brackets – CYMS 63 pts; Oak 62 pts; Shantallow 60 pts; Dee’s 58 pts; Tracey’s 56 pts; AOH 50 pts; CYMS B and Tracey’s ‘147’ 42 pts; Limavady (96) 41 pts; Oak B (96) 30 pts.

ALFIE McGINLEY LEAGUE – eight to qualify – Stephen Brady (25 frames), Peter Doherty (24), Phil McConomy and Joe Porter (23), together with Chris Gibbons and Gerald McCloskey, enter next Monday’s final furlong in the qualification comfort zone; none will be taking their foot off the accelerator pedal though. They don’t need reminding that a couple of more frames added to their tally may see them move up the pecking order and, theoretically, a softer draw in the knockout play-offs.

Phelim McClafferty leads the way in the chase for the remaining two play-off spots (20), a frame ahead of Paul Donaghy, Gareth Kirwan and Adrian McFadden, with Karl Doherty still in contention on the 18-frame mark.

TONIGHT – backlog fixture – Limavady v Oak Grove ‘B’, 8 pm.

NEXT MONDAY NIGHT – Oak Grove v CYMS (Letterkenny), 8 pm; Shantallow House v Tracey’s Bar, 7-30 pm; Dee’s ‘Muckers’ v Oak Grove ‘B’, at Waterside, 7-30 pm; CYMS ‘B’ v AOH, at Letterkenny, 8 pm; Tracey’s ‘147’ v Limavady, 8 pm.