Title hunt cues-off on Sunday at Letterkenny

TWENTY double acts are set to face the starter this Sunday ( January 15th) in the 2012 renewal of the North-West Snooker Pairs Championship, sponsored and hosted by John Doherty’s admirable North West Snooker Club (Letterkenny).

The first-ever NWIABSA Championship to be staged outside Derry, the line-up for the ground-breaking event may be down in numbers compared to previous years, but the quality remains pretty much as high as ever.

Two pairs who know what it takes to win the title seek further glory, namely Glendermott’s Maurice Ferguson & Davy Clifford (defenders) and Letterkenny’s Phelim McClafferty & Christopher Gibbons (2004 kingpins), and both alliances should make a bold bid to peak again if showing up with their A-games. Mind you, a big ‘if’ with regards to the CYMS cuemen, who have generally flattered to deceive since their conquest seven years ago.

The favourites in a wide-open imaginary ante-post market are AOH Club’s Seamus Cusack & Gerald McCloskey, a first-time partnership handed the 3/1 ‘jollies’ tag on the strength of rock-solid solo credentials (2008 Senior Championship finalists and Burke Trophy accreditation apiece).

Johnny Connors, the four-time senior champion, teams up with a very capable co-pilot in Adrian McFadden and they look the best bet to toast a ‘home town’ success (7/2 shots).

Maurice Ferguson & Davy Clifford trade at 4/1 to retain the title, followed by Shantallow’s Peter Doherty & Keith Shiels (9/2), Claudy’s Paul Donaghy & Jan Biernat (11/2) and ex-champions Phelim McClafferty & Christopher Gibbons (6/1).

Pete Murphy & Emmett Casson, the Du Pont-Shantallow combination, are quoted at 7/1, the same price as Letterkenny’s Gareth Kirwan & Anthony McGill, while Shantallow’s Joe Porter & Cyril Ming come into the betting at 15/2.

The host club’s old guard/new brigade twinning of top-shot Aidan Devenney and 14-year-old up-and-comer, Christopher Duffy, looks ‘interesting’ and they may well be overpriced at 8/1 (odds reflect concerns about young Duffy’s lack of experience).

Harry Logan & Simon Cooke are 9/1 shots, rather ‘tasty’ odds for the more-than-capable Shantallow-City of Derry GC pairing: the lack of confidence in the market doubtless due to their ultra-tough draw in the preliminaries (Connors & McFadden).

Du Pont’s Pascal McKenna & Peter Logue are another potentially formidable partnership ‘weak’ in the market (10/1). Absentees in this season’s competitive circuit, there’s simply no knowing what sort of form they will bring to the table.

Also on offer at 10/1 are Sean McVeigh & Bernard McGuinness, the second host club representation in the line-up. It’s 12/1 bar which includes Oak Grove’s Stephen Brady & Shay Norris, two well-regarded junior-graded potters and certainly worthy of ‘lively outsiders’ conjecture.

And finally, in contrast to the protracted competition of previous renewals, we’ll not have to wait long to find out the 2012 finalists, as the preliminary and first-round, quarter and semi-finals are all scheduled to be played in the same day.

SUNDAY’S SCHEDULE - Preliminary-Round - Pete Murphy & Emmett Casson (Shantallow) v Peter Doherty & Keith Shiels (Shantallow), at 2 p.m.; Johnny Connors & Adrian McFadden (CYMS) v Harry Logan & Simon Cooke (Shantallow), at 2 p.m.; Stephen Brady & Shay Norris (Oak Grove) v Owen McLaughlin & Hugh Brady (Shantallow), at 2 p.m.; Gareth Kirwan & Anthony McGill (CYMS) v Aidan Devenney & Christopher Duffy (North West SC), at 2 p.m.

First-Round - 1. Seamus Cusack & Gerald McCloskey (AOH) v Mark McCarron & Partner (CYMS), at 3 p.m.; 2. Sean McVeigh & Bernard McGuinness (North West SC) v J. Connors & A. McFadden or H. Logan & S. Cooke, at 3 p.m.; Richard Long & Partner (Glendermott) v Paul Donaghy & Jan Biernat (Claudy), at 3 p.m.; Maurice Ferguson & Davy Clifford (Glendermott) v Owen Toland & Phil Porter (Shantallow), at 3 p.m.

5. Kevin McKinney & Donal Murphy (Oak Grove) v P. Murphy & E. Casson or P. Doherty & K. Shiels, at 3 p.m.; 6. Joe Sims & Steve Weekes (Shantallow) v G. Kirwan & A. McGill or A. Devenney & C. Duffy, at 3 p.m.; 7. S. Brady & S. Norris or O. McLaughlin & H. Brady v Pascal McKenna & Peter Logue (Du Pont), at 3 p.m.; 8, Phelim McClafferty & Christopher Gibbons (CYMS) v Joe Porter & Cyril Ming (Shantallow), at 3 p.m.

Quarter-Finals - scheduled for 4 p.m. - (A) 1 v 2; (B) 3 v 4; (C) 5 v 6; (D) 7 v 8.

Semi-Finals - scheduled for 5 p.m. - (A v B) and (C v D).

All matches best-of-three frames.