The 2013 Irish National Senior Championship was whittled down to the final eight players at the weekend in Carlow.
Most of the country’s best players went head-to-head for the annual end-of-season bragging rights and it was indeed several of the leading names that advanced to the quarter-finals in a couple of weeks.
On day one, in the top half of the draw, Irish no.1 this season David Hogan came through unscathed and was joined by fellow former professionals Michael Judge and Rodney Goggins as well as Home Internationals team winning member Johnny Williams.
In the second day’s action, a second quartet was added to the talented mix with Brendan O’Donoghue, Robert Murphy, Martin McCrudden and Robert Redmond completing the eight-man strong team.
The line-up still looks particularly strong despite the fact that three of the best players were missing in action from the tournament entirely.
For reasons unknown – more than likely careless – the preliminary rounds clashed with the first Q-School event in England, ensuring that Davy Morris and Josh Boileau both missed out on domestic glory as they seek to join the Main Tour.
Meanwhile, John Sutton also withdrew as the Finals weekend, should he have made it that far, clashes with his child’s first Holy Communion – which naturally he didn’t intend on missing.
Johnny ‘Sniper’ Williams was once again on hand to keep a close eye on proceedings as he enjoyed some late season success following a difficult campaign for the Monaghan man.
“The weekend went well for me but by no means the way I had planned. I went to one of the big money matches the night before, it was a great night in TerryRogers Snooker Club, but as sometimes snooker goes it went on for longer than expected as two out of three matches went down to deciders. The other match, being mine, was over quickly when I beat a very average George Tierney 5-1.”
“The last match of the night finished at 4am so I was up at 8am to play at ten. I had no sleep and I felt and played like a zombie the whole day. I had a relatively easy passage through to the quarter-finals compared to my last few senior events, not to mention that Jason Devaney, who was my seed, was knocked out early by John McBride. McBride played very well in that match, but John then played some poor snooker and lost against a player called Tom Ahern who I really didn’t know much about. So yeah, it opened up a little for me and I had to capitalize on the opportunity and play hard match snooker as I couldn’t string a 50 break together the entire day.
“There is not really a lot I can say on my individual matches except for my match against Ernie McMullen. I find him one of the hardest players to beat on the circuit. He is a hard match player, doesn’t play the wrong shot, but like my weakness that day he didn’t score heavily enough to punish me at vital times. I have a bad record against him as he beat me the last two times before the weekend. Our match went to a decider and I played a really solid, error free last frame and did what I had to do in the balls to come out 4-3 victor.
“In our section of the draw the four quarter-finalists were pretty much expected after Devaney was knocked out. David Hogan, Rodney Goggins and Mick Judge, all of whom competed in the money matches the night before played very well Saturday on not much sleep. The same has to be said for the other side of the draw as well. The big names of O’Donoghue, Redmond, Murphy and McCrudden all came through in the end which is going to make for a very high quality last eight in two weeks time.
“The conditions at the venue were alright. Two tables had been recovered which was great, and there is more to be recovered before finals weekend. However, a few people said they struggled on the other tables over the weekend, and as the current high break stands only at 100 maybe this is evidence. I didn’t expect the tables to be immaculate in fairness. They haven’t been recovered in a while and I was delighted to hear that the Ivy Rooms are getting top class Shender tables delivered to the club in mid July. So if I was in their shoes I wouldn’t have been too fussed in getting too many tables recovered either if I was expecting Shender tables to be delivered in mid-July.
“They are also making room for two extra tables in the venue along with tiered seating which I thought was great news and exactly what a club of that stature needs. Four tables will be recovered by finals weekend and we will be playing on those so there will be no excuses. I will have to practice very hard and improve big time on my weekend’s performance if I am to overturn David Hogan in our quarter-final encounter. I will, however, be putting in the effort to give myself the best possible chance.
“The attendance was okay compared to previous events but there were about eight or so no-shows. I don’t understand why some people enter these events and then pull out. For me, some people have seen their draw and just decided that they are not going to win, so why turn up and waste money.
“I’m not sure who was in charge of scheduling this year or whether it was World Snooker or RIBSA that made the mistake of having the Q-school on the same weekend as our National Championship but it really was a shame. RIBSA now offer the top two people at the end of the year a place in Q-school instead of what used to be a pro tour spot. It’s just a shame that these top-quality players that have both the chance of becoming an Irish champion and progressing well through Q-school were not given the opportunity to do both.
“This clash resulted in the withdrawal of both David Morris and Josh Boileau. Another notable absentee from the weekend was John Sutton, who was very unselfish and decided that even if he got through to the quarter-finals weekend that he was unable to attend due to a clash with one of his children’s first holy communion, and thus did not want to ruin anyone else’s chances of getting through the initial hurdle.
“I’m really looking forward to Finals weekend. All the best players in Ireland, from all age groups, on show in the same venue makes it a very memorable and magical weekend for a lot of people and I’m just happy to say I’ll be a part of it after such a horrific season by my standards.
“The other highlight of my weekend was the talk of the new proposals for the Senior rankings and Intermediate events in the next calendar. I have heard of a very good model that involves both groups playing in what is a sort of Premier League/Championship football division sort of thing which I will not go into detail here and now.
“It was proposed by a number of people in last year’s AGM but was shot down. This season it seems to have gathered up more support and I hope it will be put through and in return be successful next year. For me, it’s the most interesting and the only way forward in our game at the moment and I’m very much in support of it. If it does not go through and another new initiative is implemented, one that I just don’t think will work, my snooker playing days might just be coming to an end.”
Thanks once again to Johnny for his excellent insight into the game in Ireland and good luck to all the players during the Finals weekend – 24th-25th May.
1. David Hogan vs Johnny Williams
2. Michael Judge vs Rodney Goggins
3. Robert Murphy vs Martin McCrudden
4. Brendan O’Donoghue vs Robert Redmond