Outlaw’s on Fire

The Players Tour Championship Grand Finals got under way with a bang last night in Galway as two dramatic encounters ended in nervy deciding frame thrillers.

Firstly, Northern Ireland’s Joe Swail, technically considered an amateur player these days, produced a vintage display to come from three down to Stephen Maguire and prevail 4-3.

Swail has been known for his unbelievable comebacks in the past and his dogged never-say-die attitude, most notably on his two runs to the semi-finals of the World Championship, resurfaced against his Scottish opponent.

At 3-0 down, it looked like Swail’s fears prior to this tournament that he would not be able to consistently mix it with the big boys any more were being realised.

However, he gallantly battled and reeled off four on the trot to set up a mouth-watering All-Antrim clash with Mark Allen – the World Open champion enjoying a much easier whitewash triumph over Mark Davis.

The final match on the opening day brought another 4-3 cracker as young hot-shot Jack Lisowski edged world no.2 Mark Selby in a titanic tussle.

Despite being often labeled as a star of the future, Lisowski has often failed to live up the expectations that others have laid on his shoulders and has also perhaps struggled to escape the shadow of friend, practice partner and world no.1 Judd Trump.

Yet, the Cheltenham cueist has had a good record over Selby in best-of-sevens, with two previous Ws to his credit, and he managed to just about get over the line against the Jester in what must surely be his biggest TV win to date.

The 21 year-old’s name bears resemblance to Jeff Lebowski – famously known as ‘The Dude’ inĀ The Big Lebowski – and Jack is somewhat of a dude himself.

With good looks he is popular with young women, notably on Twitter, while he appears to boast the laddish charm to go with it.

But there has been a sense that maybe some have become frustrated at his lack of progression in the last two seasons and he will be looking to finally mount a credible charge in a full ranking event to quell those concerns.

In the other three games on Tuesday, my tip for the title Neil Robertson and Tom Ford recorded 4-2 wins over Jamie Burnett and Martin Gould respectively while Barry Hawkins hammered Li Hang 4-0.

Today sees home hero Ken Doherty enter the fray as he marks his debut in the Grand Finals of the three year-old series.

Domestically, there may be an east-west rivalry but the Galway locals will surely be out in force to support the former world champ from Dublin when he accepts the challenge of Kurt Maflin in the first round.

Crafty Ken’s done okay this season all in all and it would not be surprising to see him rise to the occasion and go on a little run himself – indeed, his quarter of the draw is not too bad all things considered.

The 43 year-old’s encounter will wrap up the action on day two but will be preceded by five other ties.

The pick of the bunch is unquestionably John Higgins and Ali Carter, although Ding Junhui vs Andrew Higginson and Judd Trump’s match with Alfie Burden could both prove to be exciting affairs as well.

The day breaks off with China’s Cao Yupeng and Rod ‘The Plod’ Lawler, ironic given the fact that Lawler is known for his late finishes.

Perhaps, that’s the reason for the scheduling.

The draw and results can be viewed by clicking here.

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