As Judd Trump and Mark Allen battled it out for the UK Championship title, the third ranking event of the Irish Senior amateur tour also took place last weekend.
Following victories for Rodney Goggins and Brendan O’Donoghue in the opening two ranking tournaments, fellow former professional Vincent Muldoon got his campaign back on track by steamrollering the opposition to claim the title in Limerick.
Six-time County Monaghan champion Johnny Williams was also competing at the event and has kindly agreed to be our roaming reporter, giving updates and insight into the Irish amateur circuit as the 2011/12 campaign takes shape.
“The event went okay for me, I won my first two matches 3-0 to reach the last 16 and was hitting the ball very well. I beat a good opponent in Mike Howley, who is a Limerick man himself, in the second round.”
Williams’ run ended with a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Nenagh’s O’Donoghue in the third round which proved to be a bit of a disappointment for the NUI Maynooth student as he feels his overall play deserves a higher standing.
“I feel I’m playing well enough to beat any player but the rankings doesn’t reflect my true ability. By the end of the season I want to finish in the top 7 at least or I will have had a poor season.”
O’Donoghue went on to lose to another Maynooth student in Vincent Muldoon in the quarter-finals before the Galway native eased his way to the title.
“Vincent Muldoon won the event and he was by far and away the best player. He played really consistently and made numerous breaks of 70 and 80. Mark Tuite, who is on the Masters circuit, also played very well, especially when he beat Robbie Redmond 3-2 in the last 16 and he also had the highest break of the tournament of 112 in the opening round.”
There was no stopping Muldoon, though, and a whitewash over John Sutton in the semi-finals preceded a 5-1 drubbing of Goggins in the final, which sees the 2011 European Amateur Championship runner-up rise to number three in the overall rankings – behind Goggins and O’Donoghue.
With four more ranking events before the season-ending championship, things are still all to play for in terms of who will claim the nomination to the professional Main Tour for the next campaign as Ireland’s top ranked amateur.
“Vinnie jumped up to third in the rankings which still puts him in contention for the number one spot and the pro ticket. The main contenders are obviously Vinnie, Brendan, Rodney and Joe Delaney.”
However, changes to the Irish structure has meant that a lot of quality players have been forced to abandon the scene – something that Williams thinks affects the general standard.
“The attendances in tournaments are very poor and I’m personally sick that they pulled it out of Carlow (where all ranking events used be staged in recent seasons) and now we are travelling the country. The quality has dropped this season with the likes of Martin McCrudden, Colm Gilcreest, Robert Murphy and TJ Dowling not travelling to the tournaments.
“There were calls for the organisers to move it around the country and then when they did it seemed like the Dublin crowd didn’t want to travel. Carlow has the most consistently good tables in the country and is very central – financial reasons and also a lack of interest are the main reasons for the change, plus the prize money is terrible.”
Food for thought then as all does not seem to be perfect at the moment.
Judging on 2011 alone, public interest in the sport appears to be varied with contrasting successes at the two professional events staged in the country this year in Dublin and Killarney.
Nonetheless, competition is still expected to be fierce as the players try to earn that pro card for the 2012/13 campaign. We’ll hear more Johnny Williams as this season progresses.
Current 2011/12 Irish Senior Rankings Top 8
1. Rodney Goggins – 370
2. Brendan O’Donoghue – 310
3. Vincent Muldoon – 290
4. John Sutton – 280
5. Joe Delaney – 260
6. Greg Casey – 230
7. Robert Redmond – 220
8. Keith Sheldreck – 220