Johnny Williams and John Sutton have reached the Snookerbacker Classic Grand Finals after coming through the Dublin leg at CrossGuns Snooker Club.
The pair become the fifth and sixth men who will do battle at the South West Snooker Academy later this month, joining Allan Taylor, Jamie Barrett, David Gray and Martin O’Donnell in what is shaping up to be a fantastic last 8 line-up.
With today’s qualifying event including eight players itself, all the competitors were aware that just two wins would be required to be on the ferry across the Irish Sea which ensured that the game faces were on as soon as the matches got up and running.
Indeed, the focus seemed to do the power of good for two players in particular because both Joe Delaney and Johnny Williams made light work of their opening opposition.
Former professional Delaney arrived having won the All-Ireland Club Championship with Celbridge last weekend and was in confident mood against Robert Bell.
Bell admitted afterwards that he didn’t even get a chance in and around the black spot and Delaney sealed an easy whitewash with a 79 break in the fourth frame.
Williams wasn’t far behind and out-muscled inexperienced Ray Whelan by a similar scoreline of 4-0 to book what would prove to be a cracking showdown with Delaney in the first play-off tie.
The Maynooth player wouldn’t have started the match as the favourite but certainly played like one after pinching a tight opener on the black.
The 24 year-old played what was probably the shot of the day as well when he rattled in the pink to the centre pocket, coming in and out of baulk with the cue-ball to land lush on the final black to establish an early advantage.
From there Williams displayed all the characteristics of his nickname ‘Sniper’ with a flurry of excellent pots in his trademark lightning speed around the table and before Delaney knew what was happening it was already 3-0.
Delaney, to his credit, battled valiantly to get back into the match, compiling the highest break of the day of 88 to reduce the gap to two and subsequently had an early 40 break in the next to put the pressure on.
However, Williams was a man in form and took his first big chance to win with a cool clearance of 64 to the pink for what will surely be a confidence-boosting victory.
On the other side of the draw, John Sutton had a couple of breaks over 50 in his 4-1 triumph over youngster Andrew Doherty in a scoreline that was perhaps not as convincing as the result sounds.
Doherty had good chances in most of the frames but struggled to make any sizable contributions when in amongst the balls, which eventually told as Sutton used his experience to see the match out comfortably enough.
Keith Sheldreck was the last man to make it through the first round, playing some tough match snooker to see off Robert Redmond 4-2.
The match turned in the fourth frame when Sheldreck fluked a snooker while 2-1 behind and in danger of falling further adrift, and eventually took it to square things up before shutting out his opponent thereafter.
That meant it was between Sheldreck and Sutton to see who would join Williams in Gloucester and it was the former who got off to the best start by taking the first frame but that was as good as it was going to get for the player ranked seventh in the Irish rankings.
After Sutton levelled with a break of 75 – later he was gutted to be informed that Delaney already made a higher break and would be taking home the pound per point high break prize – the Celbridge cueist won a couple of important scrappy frames on the black and pink before completing a 4-1 victory.
So no close matches in the end but plenty of talent on display, fitting for where the action materialised at the magnificent CrossGuns – the oldest snooker club in Ireland and the UK and a venue that oozes character.
Both Williams and Sutton will fancy their chances of collecting the winner’s prize of entry into Q-School and four Players Tour Championship events, as well as the coveted inaugural Snookerbacker Classic Trophy, but they will face equally stern opposition at the Grand Finals on 24th February.