On Monday, Ireland won the Home Internationals for only the fourth time in the history of the tournament.
In a nail-biting finish, the Irish had to nervously wait for the result of the final match of the day between England and Wales to go their way.
Thankfully it did and the Irish were awarded the Prince of Wales Shield for the first time in 11 years.
One of the members of the five-strong team was Johnny ‘Sniper’ Williams, a long-time contributor to SHQ.
Here’s his account of how the Irish team memorably clinched the Home Internationals victory in Prestatyn.
By Johnny ‘Sniper’ Williams
It’s no big secret that Ireland didn’t field its strongest team possible. Vinnie Muldoon was in America and Joe Delaney from Dublin didn’t go for one reason or another. After Rodney Goggins and Brendan O’Donoghue, the next two places up for grabs went to Greg Casey and Robert Redmond. Although I finished joint fifth on points last season I was actually seventh in the rankings but was still selected as the fifth man on a four-man team which I was delighted about.
Without naming names, a lot of people back home thought that Ireland had no chance or at least were only third favourites on paper behind the England and Wales A teams. Our first match was against the Isle of Man, who were probably the weakest side in the tournament, so for us this was just a warm up match. It was treated as something to get our cue arm going and gain a bit of confidence from on the tables. To my surprise I was selected to play that match. In the end we won 10-2. Both myself and Robert Redmond dropped a frame.
The next day we had three games. Our first match was against Scotland in the morning session, at 10am. We claimed that match 7-5 in the end but I played no part as I was dropped for that game. We then played the Welsh B team in the 2pm session. I started for this game, Robbie had become ill and decided to hang up the cue for the rest of the tournament due to a viral infection, something I think both me and the team thought would be detrimental to our chances of winning. Anyway, Wales B managed to beat us 7-5 in the end in a match I played my worst snooker for about a year losing 3-0 to probably Wales’ weakest player. A touch of nerves and bad preparation on my behalf were surely the cause.
The last match of the day was against a stronger Wales A team. I went to the toilet to gather myself and tell myself I couldn’t let the team down like I did in the last match. We won that match with a very impressive 8-4 victory which im sure was a shock to most. I won my game 2-1, beating a very good player and playing some very good match snooker. I was kind of shocked at how well I felt and played in that game as it was only an hour previous that I could barely hold my own cue. It made our win that little bit sweeter for me.
Our final match of the tournament came on the Monday morning. We were playing in a game we needed to win to keep our hopes alive and I felt really good going in to this game as I always love playing England. We won that game with a very close 7-5 victory which meant if Wales A could beat or draw with England in their final game we would be crowned champions. Wales managed to beat them 7-5 and the title came back to Ireland for the first time since 2001 and only the fourth time in the tournament’s history.
Although the tournament can’t be won by individual players it has to be said that our own captain Brendan O’Donoghue showed amazing match play ability the whole weekend. He provided great leadership skills and set a great example for any snooker player that wants to do well in the game. Brendan won 13 frames out of his 15 which im told is possibly a record for Irish snooker in the Home Internationals. He truly played amazing snooker, showed great bottle when it was needed and pulled off some incredible finishes.
Our individual results, although some unflattering, proved to be very vital in the end. Matches were great to win but results went on frames won and each frame proved to be incredibly vital. It was easy to say to Brendan and Rodney go out there and win 3-0 each match but at the end of the day if myself, Greg or Robbie didn’t win a frame in each match then other match results meant nothing and the title could not have been won. Individual results to the best of my knowledge were as follows:
Myself: Played: 4, Won: 2, Lost: 2. I won 5 frames and lost 7.
Brendan: Played: 5, Won: 5, Dropping only 2 frames.
Robert: Played: 2, won both 2-1.
Greg: Played: 4, Won: 1, Lost: 3. He won 5 frames and lost 7.
Rodney (solid as a rock as usual): Played: 5, Won: 3, Lost 2. Winning 10 frames and losing 5.
My final word on the whole weekend was that I had an amazing time. It was my fourth time playing for my country and my second time at senior level. It has to be said that this time felt the most special for obvious reasons. Not only was it a great result and something I will have on my snooker CV for a lifetime but it was an amazing learning experience. Admittedly, my preparation for each match was not 100% but in saying that I gave everything I could in each game I played. It was an honour playing with the lads and seeing how both Brendan and Rodney prepare for and play each match like it was their last was inspiring. I can only hope that if I can adapt my game and try to integrate some of their mentality I may one day reap the rewards and get a senior ranking title under my belt. If not well at least I can say I tried.
A big thanks has to go out to our manager PJ Nolan, whose heart is in every game he watches us play and it’s great to see and be a part of. He took notes in each of our games and gave us advice after on how we could improve. Without mentioning names, the support given from a few people over the weekend was great. They came, watched, and cheered on sometimes very poor snooker but it was their presence alone that was very helpful. After our victory it was great to see people truly happy to see us lifting the title and the celebrations after were amazing.
My goal next season has now extended from not only getting to a senior ranking final but to make the Irish Home International team again to try to defend this title that rightfully now belongs to Team Ireland.