DECISION TIME is just around the corner in the Pairs Championship and Alfie McGinley Premier Individual League – both ‘Triple Crown’ events – commencing tomorrow night with the ultimate stage of the ‘Pairs’ and followed next Monday night by the ‘League’ play-off final.
Four of the six finalists hail from Letterkenny’s CYMS Club, including Adrian McFadden, a hitherto relatively unheralded player with plenty of miles on the clock enjoying a career purple patch (involved in the business end of both competitions).
A preview of both high-profile finals, as well as reports on last week’s Intermediate and Junior Championship deciders.
THE PAIRS FINAL – sponsored by Dungloe Bar – Shantallow’s Peter Doherty & Joe Porter or Letterkenny’s Gareth Kirwan & Adrian McFadden will become the newest double-act to claim title accreditation, although Doherty and McFadden have struck before with different co-pilots.
Up there among the market leaders in several past renewals (without impact), the Racecourse Road alliance have finally got their act together. While they will probably shade favouritism in most books to finish the job, the Donegal duo are far too good a combination to be rated underdogs - and with this in mind, it’s a toss-of-a-coin job in my forecast book.
Semi-Final Results – Doherty & Porter progressed past Davy Clifford & Maurice Ferguson, whose hopes of replicating their 2011 title triumph evaporated with a 2-0 defeat (51-39 and 63-39).
Kirwan & McFadden ended the gallant run of Martin Moore & Shea Moore, the grandfather/grandson junior-graded alliance. The Letterkenny pair’s 2-1 win was backboned by Kirwan’s breaks of 38 and 34 in the first and third frames. But the star turn of the match was young Shea Moore’s excellent 61 sequence in frame two (68-26, 8-71 and 66-36).
Millennium Champions – S. Conway/K. Doherty (2000-02); T. Cregan/P. McCafferty (2001); J. Connors/G. McKeever (2003); C. Gibbons/P. McClafferty (2004); P. McCrossan/G. Roulston (2005-06); P. Doherty/P. McCallion (2007); C. Brown/R. Dixon (2008-13); P. McKenna/C. O’Hara (2009-10); D. Clifford/M. Ferguson (2011); J. Connors/A. McFadden (2012); G. McCloskey/A. McGill (2014-15).
Question – Who is the only potter to play in four finals without winning?... Answer – Gareth Kirwan (2008-11-13-15).
Record Breaker – Aidan Devenney 104 at Letterkenny NWSC in 2012 stands in splendid isolation as the Pairs Championship lone century compilation.
Tomorrow night’s final, hosted by Tracey’s Bar, breaks-off at 7-30 pm. Best-of-five frames (formal dress), the match officials are Harry Logan (overseer), Seamus Gallagher and Joe Sims (referees).
THE LEAGUE FINAL – Letterkenny’s Phelim McClafferty and Adrian McFadden share centre stage as the chase for the game’s second most prized title, which cued-off back in October (qualifiers), climaxes next Monday night at Shantallow House.
Both players seek their first major individual titles, a surprise anomaly on McClafferty’s C.V., given he has been one of the game’s top-drawer performers for well over a decade now. Set to make a belated second appearance at the ultimate stage (2007), he appears to hold bright prospects of opening his winning account at the expense of a lower-graded opponent.
McFadden was certainly not among the chief title ‘suspects’ at the outset of competition, the lack of consistency rather than ability finding few friends among the punditry. Indeed, he blew hot-and-hot throughout the qualifiers and only scraped into the play-offs after surviving a tie-breaker for the eighth and final qualifying spot.
Facing an ultra-tough quarter-final assignment against Peter Doherty (bidding for a record-equalling fourth title and three-in-a-row), the CYMS cuemen shocked the defender (2-1), before causing another hard-to-predict upset by dismissing dual champion Gerald McCloskey in the semi-final (2-0).
The Verdict – As the better all-round snooker technician, McClafferty is entitled to pre-final favouritism, but he would in a big heap of trouble if his club companion repeats his excellent play-off form. That’s for sure.
Millennium Champions – Anthony Bonner (2000); Seamus Conway (2001); Kevin Sala (2002); Chris Gibbons (2003-08); Pascal McKenna (2004); Glenn Roulston (2005); Peter Doherty (2006-14-15); Gerald McCloskey (2007-10); Keith Shiels (2009); Seamus Cusack (2011); Aidan Devenney (2012) and Johnny Connors (2013).
Next Monday night’s final, hosted by Shantallow House, cues-off at 7-30 pm. Best-of-five frames (formal dress), the match officials are Seamus Gallagher and Joe Sims (referees), Harry Logan and Joe Porter (overseers).
FIRST CHAMPIONS – Shea Norris (Oak Grove) and Dean McAleese (Limavady) won the bragging rights as NW Championship Snooker’s first kingpins of 2016, the Oak potter emerging victorious in the intermediate grade, while the ‘Roesider’ struck gold in the junior equivalent.
Intermediate Final – Shea Norris, who secured the title by defeating Ralph Dixon (Du Pont) 3-1, compiled the two best-match break en-route to taking the first two frames (34 in first and 42 in second). However, despite his sequence in frame two, he only survived Dixon’s late rally to scramble over the line on the black.
The pair traded 23 breaks in frame three, the Campsie cueman holding a nine-point lead on the green before mopping up the colours to put the frame to bed . And he looked fair set for the equaliser in frame four when 26 points ahead on the last five colours. Alas, he went in-off after potting the green, the cue for Norris to execute a pressure-filled title-winning five-colour clearance (frame scores: 68-36, 65-53, 46-73 and 63-60).
Junior Final – Dean McAleese, who celebrated his maiden NW Championship success by beating Phil McConomy (Tracey’s Bar) 3-2, played steady snooker to take the opening two frames without breaking much sweat (74-29 and 66-37).
The Tracey’s Bar southpaw hit back to even up the scores, compiling the best-match break of 37 in frame three (67-43 and 47-34). McAleese enjoyed the better of exchanges on the reds in the shoot-out frame (led by 23 points entering the colours). McConomy reduced the deficit (yellow and green), the ‘Roesider’ replying with brown and blue to move 28 points clear, at which point the towel came in (55-27).
Finally, the NWIABSA committee extends grateful thanks to the family of the late Mick O’Reilly and Tracey’s Bar (sponsoring and hosting the Intermediate Championship), Shantallow House (hosting the ‘Junior’), together with all the referees who officiated throughout both tournaments.