NW SNOOKER: 2016 kingpin set to be crowned at Shantallow
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).