THIS WEEK’S action on the green baize features no fewer than four finals, starting with the Senior Cup (tonight), following by the Veteran Championships double-bill (tomorrow night), before the par-excellence programme climaxes on Friday night with the Hugh Brady (Snr) Senior Individual Championship final, hosted by Shantallow House.
Friday’s flagship final is an all-southpaw encounter involving Gerald McCloskey (Tracey’s) and Letterkenny’s Gareth Kirwan (CYMS), a brief profile of each combatant as follows.
GERALD McCLOSKEY – Talented, consistent and durable, he has been among the big-league of NW snooker practitioners since the early 1990s. Now in the twilight of his star-studded career (‘big 50’), but still with the wherewithal to remain competitive at the game’s highest level.
Solid all-round performer and a tough match player, McCloskey is armed with a fine break-building technique, well manifested by taking out membership of the elite ‘Centurion Club’ with 101 compilation in a Pairs Cup tie at 720 SC in 2007.
Championship CV – Senior champion (2008) and twice runner-up (1992-13)... Two gold (2007-10) and five silver (2000-04-08-13-15) in an unrivalled seven appearances in the Premier Individual League play-off finals... One of the few to play at the ultimate stage of both major individual events in the same year (2008-13)... Hat-trick of Pairs titles (1996-14-15).
GARETH KIRWAN – A regular member of CYMS Club’s multitalented line-ups since the beginning of the century, picking up a multitude of major team medals, without impacting the championship circuit until recent times.
Up there with the best of them in the break-building department, compiling a boatload of sizeable sequences down the years, but inconsistency has been his bugbear, hence his belated entry into the big-time.
Championship CV – Intermediate champion (2013)... Pairs title this year and now has the ‘prized pot’ in his sights.
The Verdict – The intimidating atmosphere associated with the senior final represents the game’s greatest ordeal, meaning the Letterkenny potter’s temperament faces a real acid test in his first appearance on the big stage. In contrast, the heat of the final furnace should not unduly bother the battle-hardened McCloskey and, with this in mind, he looks the most likely winner.
MILLENNIUM CHAMPIONS – Ten potters have won NW snooker Blue Riband title since the turn of the century, including Eglinton’s Paul King, a player with a peerless Senior Championship pedigree. He wore the crown for a ninth time after defeating Pascal McKenna 4-0 in the 2000 final.
2001 – Shea Conway replicated his 1997 title triumph, courtesy of a 4-0 victory over Paul King, appearing in the final for the tenth year on the bounce. Incredible!
2002 – Johnny Connors’ 4-1 dethronement of Shea Conway in the final enabled the precocious 15-year-old Letterkenny teenager to achieve the double-distinction as Donegal’s first senior champion and youngest title custodian.
2003 – Coronation of an unique champion when a 34-year-old hitherto unheralded contender was elevated from relative anonymity to celebrity status following a sensational-style triumph, the first and only junior graded competitor to hit the jackpot. Take a bow Pete Murphy who climaxed his ‘zero to hero’ conquest with a 4-3 verdict over Letterkenny’s Johnny White.
2004 – Paul King’s Senior Championship swansong year (emigrated to Canada). Appearing in the final for the 13th time, his going-away party was spoiled by Johnny Connors (defeated the nine-time champion in four straight frames).
2005 – Glenn Roulston put County Tyrone on the title map, the Strabane southpaw sealing his landmark victory with a 4-1 decision over Claudy’s Paul Donaghy.
2006 – Johnny Connors beat Peter Doherty 4-2 to pay third visit to the victory rostrum.
2007 – Glenn Roulston came in from the ante-post cold to strike gold two years ago, but any half-booked notions of a ‘flash in the snooker pan’ job were well and truly cooked when he peaked again (doubled-up with a 4-1 win over Seamus Cusack).
2008 – Gerald McCloskey relinquished his maiden Senior Championship tag and condemned Seamus Cusack to back-to-back defeats at the ultimate stage (4-2).
2009 – Pascal McKenna, who endured the bitter taste of a 4-0 ‘skinner’ at the start of the new millennium, was back again in the final and it was the sweet smell of success this time around (beat Chris Brown 4-1).
2010 – Johnny Connors bagged fourth title after dethroning Pascal McKenna (4-3).
2011 – Maurice Ferguson mirrored Paul King (1986), Shea Conway (1997) and Glenn Roulston (2005) as the fourth intermediate-graded contender to upstage the ‘bigwigs’. Sealed his unexpected victory by defeating Simon Cooke (4-1).
2012 – Johnny Connors prevails 4-3 against Sean McVeigh in benchmark all-Letterkenny final.
2013 – Johnny Connors, the first successful defender of the new century, secured distinctive back-to-back wins at the expense of Gerald McCloskey (4-1). He also claimed outright second spot in the title table.
2014 – Aidan Devenney became Letterkenny’s second kingpin and rubbed salt in Seamus Cusack’s ‘seconditis’ wounds (4-0).
2015 – Stephen Brady beat Peter Doherty 4-3 to become the 34th name chiselled into the granite roll-of-honour since competition was instituted (1933). He created a family record as the first progeny of an ex-champion to wear the famous T-shirt – his late grandfather Hugh (snr) won the title back in 1953.
Golden Oldies – Victory for Gerald McCloskey would make him the third senior champion to defy the half-century age barrier, as only Jim McAllister (55 in 1958) and Donal McVeigh (50 in 1977) have done before.
Record Breakers – Jason Prince stamped an indelible mark on the Senior Championship by posting a 113 sequence at George Bar in 1987 (maiden century and remains the highest compilation)... Johnny Connors bagged 107 and 102 at Du Pont in 2005 (the only player to hit a brace of ‘tons’ in the same renewal).. And finally, Stephen Brady fashioned the Championship’s fourth century break at Shantallow House in last year’s renewal (104).
FRIDAY’S FINAL – Gerald McCloskey v Gareth Kirwan, at Shantallow House, 7-30 pm; Best-of-five frames (formal dress), the match officials are Hugh Brady, jun (overseer), Seamus Gallagher and Joe Sims (referees).