Michael Judge beat Robert Redmond 8-5 in the final of Irish National Championship to claim the title for the first time.
The 38 year-old, who has reached the last 16 of the World Championship, returned to the sport after a year out, a decision that now seems fully justified as he ends the season as the country’s best.
The Dubliner edged Rodney Goggins 5-4 in the quarter-finals before hammering pre-tournament favourite David Hogan 6-0 in the last four.
Then, in the final at the Ivy Rooms in Carlow, Judge came from 4-0 down to overcome Redmond and earn the glory.
Redmond had seen off Brendan O’Donoghue and Robert Murphy in a brace of deciders to reach his maiden Championship final but ran out of gas with the winning line in sight.
Johnny Williams was narrowly beaten 5-4 by Hogan in the last eight to put an end to a disappointing season for the ‘Sniper’ but he was once again on hand to give us a full report of the tournament for the last time in this campaign.
“Well I prepared as best as I could for my quarter-final. I knew David was in great form going into the event so I had to give myself every opportunity to win. To cut a long story short neither of us could get going at all in this encounter. I don’t think either of us had a break over 60. Every frame went to the colours that I won anyway. The way the match went David could have won 5-2 but he made very silly mistakes on the colours and let me in for easy clearances. In saying that I should have won 5-3. After going 4-3 up, I was left a glorious long red, easy enough, the length of the table. As I got down to cue it, a match on the another table finished and everyone started clapping. It did put me off, but I should have got up off my shot, but I didn’t, juggled the red, and he cleared. I didn’t get a proper chance in the last frame to score any points at all and in fairness he deserved the win as my safety was the worst ever.”
“I was kind of keeping an eye on other matches. Both the Redmond O’Donoghue and the Goggins Judge matches went down to deciders and from what I saw both were of the highest standard – Brendan even knocking in a 135 break along the way. I think the McCrudden v Murphy game was a bit scrappy but when it comes to tactics and scrappy frames like that Robert Murphy is one of the best in Ireland whereas McCrudden likes them open and to score quickly.
“I wasn’t there for the semi-finals but it’s quite obvious Judge was on a different planet this weekend. Never in a million years could I have predicted a 6-0 trouncing of Hogan as Hogan is such a determined match player. I never saw how the frames went so I can’t really say but scoreline speaks for itself. I’m told Robert Murphy missed a glorious chance in the deciding frame to beat Redmond and when he missed the frame clinching red Redmond came in and had an amazing dish to reach his second final of the season. Redmond is probably the most under rated player on the circuit, amazing in the balls, amazing temperament and also an above average safety game.
“The final looked like a tale of two halves. Redmond flying into a 4-0 lead before the interval and then judge taking every frame bar one after the interval to close out an 8-5 victory. It just goes to show when the conditions are perfect these ex professionals who have made a living out of the game are just a step above the rest.
“Staying on the conditions, they were immaculate – the best I’ve ever seen the Ivy Rooms in fairness It should have suited me down to the ground, the tables were absolutely flying and sometimes I couldn’t control the white at all, and that’s the complaint I’ve been looking for the whole season from clubs. Not to mention new match balls were brought in for the Finals weekend also. I didn’t feel one bit of nerves in my quarter-final, which was strange because every other match all season I struggled with nerves and just couldn’t play my natural game. But the fact the tables could not have been any better and played very like my table in Maynooth put me at ease. The Ivy Rooms are now getting in 14 Shender tables after the European Championship in Poland and I for one just cant wait to get playing on them.
“The season as a whole for me, in short, I consider a failure. I only reached two quarter-finals the whole season, only finished number 10, didn’t make the Mens team for Poland by a few points, and my first ranking points final still alludes me. I also probably wont make the Mens Home International team which was my goal at the start of the season, and this has me most gutted. I wanted to go back and try to defend the trophy with the lads. However, in saying that, if the top players that are eligible to play, actually play we could not ask for a better team and in turn not have a better chance of retaining it. Something that hasn’t been done in many, many years. I will be there supporting if work allows and I’m not picked on an Irish B team to go over in any case.
“The season as a whole, in relation to Irish snooker, RIBSA run tournaments were also in mine, and many other people’s eyes, below par. I wont say a failure because that only came in the Mens tournaments. Intermediates seemed to get on well, the ladies got on as good as ever, the Masters were probably the highlight of RIBSA’s season entry wise and not to forget winning the European Team Championship. And the Billiards I just cant comment on as I know nothing about it. The Mens season however was a complete shambles. After being to the AGM, when I see how in 2008/9 they had up to 130 entries in a tournament, to our Irish Championship having about 44 entries, I think it’s cause for concern. A lot of reasons have been brought up over the season as to this decline in numbers – reasons like, financial issues, families, poor prize money, laziness from Irish players and lack of commitment to the game etc. And to be honest I think its a mixture of them all. Like I said in the AGM I haven’t got a penny back from a RIBSA event this season but I still haven’t missed one tournament, so my commitment to the game cannot be questioned. There are other players out there however that will give out about this and about that and yet not show up to events. If people cannot come because of work, which takes priority in this day and age, that’s fair enough. Any other reason I just can’t/don’t accept as this has been the case in Irish Snooker for as long as I can remember anyway.
“RIBSA tried to spice things up a little this season by introducing new types of events and I commend them for this but the fact is that they have just not worked. Now whether its RIBSA’s fault or players lack of interest I can’t say. A prime example of this season was our double elimination tournaments. Now although I’m not in favour of someone getting back into a comp after losing, this format should have attracted many, many more players but it didn’t. So RIBSA tried their best but the fish just didn’t bite which is a shame.
“Two Premier League football league style motions have been put forward to try out next season. There were many people against these at the AGM, but for me these people are only looking out for themselves and not the future of Mens senior snooker as a whole. We have tried something new this season and it hasn’t worked, so lets try something new next season and see if it works. If it doesn’t, we will go back to the drawing board but at least we tried. I think snooker is growing as a worldwide sport and in turn this should have a positive effect on Irish snooker also. I might not even be able to play snooker next season as I will be in full-time teaching during the week and I’ll need a weekend job to survive. But this does not take away from the fact that I’d like to see Irish snooker thrive again. The new proposals that have been introduced will look after every snooker player in the country if they just show RIBSA some support. And if they don’t, they cant complain. Simple as.”
As always, a big thanks to Johnny for this excellent insight into the game in Ireland.
And, of course, congratulations to Michael Judge.