NORTH-WEST Championship Snooker’s stand-out performance of the 2015/16 campaign was exhibited by Gerald McCloskey, a 50-year-old veteran cueist showing he could still cut the mustard at the highest level by bagging the game’s supreme individual title.
Moreover, he embellished his second visit to the Senior Championship’s iconic victory rostrum when posting a new record break for the final (88 in the shoot-out frame). That’s what you call a timely standard-setter.
After years as an undergraduate of Letterkenny’s talent-laden snooker college, Adrian McFadden finally passed the first degree exams, the CYMS cueman celebrating his maiden high-profile singles title (Premier Individual League).
Aside from his breakthrough into the big-time, McFadden teamed up with Gareth Kirwan to win the ‘Pairs’, the last-named player picking up a touch of compensation for his silver medal podium finish in the ‘Senior’.
In the lower-graded individual competitions, Shea Norris became the newest addition to the roll-call of ‘Intermediate’ champions, while Dean McAleese put Limavady on the ‘Junior’ title map.
NW snooker’s most important team title – Premier League – was claimed by Letterkenny’s CYMS for a record sixth time, including the past four renewals (1994-11-13-14-15-16)... And it was business as usual for Shantallow House in the League Division One (three-in-a-row)... But Tracey’s Bar won the bragging rights as the most successful club in numerical terms, winning all three major knockout competitions – Premier, Senior and Pairs Cup.
Oak Colts doubled-up in the second-tier tournaments – League Division Two and Intermediate Cup – while Waterside’s Hollywood SC, a new club name to the competitive circuit, marked their debut campaign with victory in the Junior Cup.
CHAMPIONSHIP SNOOKER – Senior Championship winner (2008) and twice runner-up (1992-13), Gerald McCloskey redressed the balance with a 4-3 decision over Letterkenny’s Gareth Kirwan in an all-southpaw final, highlighted by a laudable back-to-the-wall reaction and an excellent title-winning break.
McCloskey bounded into a 3-0 lead (60-46, 83-13 and 67-10), before Kirwan enjoyed the better of exchanges in the next three frames to even up the scores (72-42, 78-43 and 86-0). Suffice to say, a mettle-testing time for the combatants as they faced the heat of the shoot-out-frame furnace, not least McCloskey (removed from his 3-0 comfort zone). As it was, the battle-hardened Tracey’s Bar man was undeterred, compiling a pressure-laden 88 benchmark break to settle the issue in sublime style (88-11).
For the record, McCloskey is the second 50-year-old player to bag the prized pot (Donal McVeigh in 1977), the oldest title custodian being Jim McAllister (aged 55 in 1958).
The League – Adrian McFadden emulated Kevin McCloskey (1997), Kevin Sala (2002), Glenn Roulston (2005) and Keith Shiels (2009) as the fifth non-senior ranked contender to upstage the top-shots in the Premier Individual League.
The ‘Pairs’ title four years ago was the 33-year-old CYMS Club potter’s lone claim to fame before the 2016 Championship campaign, thus his maiden major singles accreditation added real substance to his CV. Little clues were forthcoming about his ultimate rise to stardom during the qualifiers, only just remaining in contention after surviving a tie-breaker for the uninspiring eight and last play-off place.
The calm before the storm, the Letterkenny man defying established form in the knockout stages. After claiming the select scalps of three-time champion and defender Peter Doherty (quarter-final) and dual scorer Gerald McCloskey (semi-final), he climaxed his unlikely title triumph with a 3-1 victory at the expense of top-graded club companion Phelim McClafferty.
The Pairs – Gareth Kirwan & Adrian McFadden sealed the ‘Pairs’ title with a 3-1 decision over Peter Doherty & Joe Porter (Shantallow), a result which finally brought closure to the ‘seconditis’ woes of Kirwan, unsuccessful in four previous finals (2008-11-13-14).
The Intermediate – The final saw Shea Norris snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in a 3-2 verdict over Ralph Dixon (Du Pont). The Campsie cuemen looked the likely winner on the green in the shoot-out frame (26 points ahead), but an avoidable in-off handed the Oak player the key to get out of jail (green to black clearance).
The Junior – Dean McAleese became the newest name to be penned into the catalogue of NW Championship winners, the Limavady competitor opening his winning account with a 3-2 verdict over Phil McConomy (Tracey’s Bar).
TEAM SNOOKER – CYMS Club’s regular line-up in the Premier League were Chris Gibbons, Gareth Kirwan and Phelim McCafferty (significant cameo appearances from Johnny Connors). Runners-up were Waterside’s Dee’s ‘ Muckers’ (six points adrift).
The Letterkenny side secured the record-breaking sixth conquest in grand style when, just a single point ahead of Oak Grove in the final week of fixtures, they demolished their title rivals 6-0 at the Bishop Street bar.
Tracey’s Treble – The Premier Cup topped the order of merit in the unique clean sweep, the William Street club’s maiden victory at the game’s highest level. Represented by Emmett Casson, Gerald McCloskey and Anthony McGill, they joined the big league of teams after beating Glendermott CC 4-1.
The ‘Glens’ also provided the opposition in the Senior Cup final and again had to settle for the minor honours (lost 3-0), the successful side being Emmett Casson, Gerald McCloskey, Anthony McGill (scr), Gavin Gallagher (+20) and Brian McCourt (+30).
In contrast to untroubled wins in the Premier and Senior Cup finals, the Tracey’s team had to go the full six-frame distance in the Pairs Cup decider before seeing off surprise-packets Mailey Bar, the lower-league minnows whose gallant bid to defy the odds was denied on total aggregate points (380-345). Winning line-up – Gerald McCloskey, Anthony McGill (scr), Gavin Gallagher (+20), Kevin Daly, Alan Healy and Brian McCourt (+30).
Shantallow Domination – The Racecourse Road top-tier team, who fielded Stephen Brady, Peter Doherty (scr), Harry Logan, Joe Porter (+10) and Pete Murphy (+15), continued their League Division One recent domination (third successive year), finishing six points clear of second-best AOH Club.
Colts Double – The Oak Colts potters confirmed themselves a well above average lower-tier outfit when, apart from the League Division Two title (beat Riversiders 3-1 in play-off-final), they emerged victorious in the higher-graded Intermediate Cup (defeated Sean Dolan’s GAC 3-0 in decider). Double-winning team - Cathal Wilson (+20), Barry McDaid (+25), Kieran Boyle, Blaine McDaid and John Ryan (+30).
Hat-trick Foiled – Hollywood denied Oak Colts a hat-trick in the Junior Cup final (3-1), the successful side being Stephen Heaney, Mal Irwin, Dean McAleese, Liam McDermott (+20) and Michael Cairns (+30).
THANKS – The NWIABSA committee take this opportunity to offer grateful thanks to the following for supporting the Association’s 2015/16 programme of competitions – Sponsors, Host Clubs, Derry Journal (publicity), together with Seamus Gallagher and Joe Sims (senior referees).