Ireland were unable to retain their Home Internationals trophy but still placed a credible second behind Wales A in Leeds on Monday.
The Irish sent over an incredibly strong team consisting of David Hogan, Brendan O’Donoghue, Michael Judge and John Sutton.
The quartet was left to rue a shaky start but recovered well, only being defeated once, in that opener, to finish just behind the eventual champions.
Celbridge’s Sutton was kind enough to keep an eye on things over in England at the weekend and here’s his quality account of what happened in the tournament overall…
“I think most people would agree we had a very strong team going over to this event but a lot of people forget that we have no divine right to win this great prize as there were always other teams going to turn up – and some very strong teams too might I add.”
“Firstly, the format had changed from a five-man team to a four-man team with three frames still being played by each player. Second, there was a change of venue from Pontins to the Northern Club in Leeds. The four of us were confident enough that we had enough ability and experience to bring the trophy back again but we knew ourselves that all four of us had only been back practicing the last week and a half while the Welsh, Scots and English lads had all been involved recently in Q-School and the last couple of PTC events. In the case of a couple of the Welsh lads, pro events as well. That said, we still believed our experience could get us through.
“The seven teams involved in the seniors were ROI, Wales A, Wales B, Scotland, Guernsey, England and Norther Ireland. Our first match was against Wales A, which we lost 8-4, and truth be told this is probably where we lost the tournament as we each got off to a poor start losing the first three frames and it seemed to set the tone for the rest of the tournament. We still knew we were in with a chance and thought that none of the teams would go through unbeaten and that it would go down to frame difference (as ultimately proved to be correct).
“Next up the same day was Wales B, in what had now become a must-win game already. We won 7-5, but honestly we were a little lucky, or should I say I was lucky. I was 2-0 up going into my last frame and thought we had already won the match and I made a ridiculous clearance against Gavin Lewis feeling nice and relaxed. But when I potted the last pink I realised that if I had lost that frame we would’ve drawn 6-6. Trust me when I say I would not have gone for half the balls if I had have known.
“First up the following morning was a strong Scottish team who had reached the final of the European Team Championship earlier this year. We beat them 8-4 in a good win. Next up that same day was Guernsey who on paper were probably the weakest team but were unlucky to lose 8-4 to England and who would go on to beat Scotland. We beat them 9-3 but the scoreline should have read at least 10-2 to help our frame difference. At the same time as us beating them, Wales B had beaten Wales A 7-5, so now the only team unbeaten was England but they still had to play Wales A and ourselves on the last day.
“Going into the final day’s play there were three teams including us that could win it. We beat N.Ireland 8-4 in what is always a tough match and Wales A destroyed England which now meant we had to hammer England and hope Wales A slipped up against Scotland. We drew 6-6 against England and Wales scraped through 7-5. Congratulations to Wales who were deserving winners and we finished second ahead of England. Overall, we were disappointed we couldn’t retain the title but were happy how we battled when none of us were playing particularly well.
“The venue itself was excellent for this tournament. There was a reception area with a bar and restaurant where players could chat and mingle before and after the matches. As for the tables, they were perfect and ran very well. You could tell they were looked after – professional player Peter Lines was in every morning at 7.30am brushing, blocking and ironing every table used before the day’s play. Then in the evening he ran a 32-man flyer for any players who wanted extra practice.
“Location wise it was very easy to get to with a flight straight into Leeds then 15 mins in a taxi to the venue, with accommodation right beside it. Going forward I don’t think any player would have a problem with the tournament being held there again in the future. If I was to pick holes in the venue, a good few players felt the tables were too close together which made it very uncomfortable where to stand and sit, and a few players were bumping into each other and other referees.
“Finally, a special mention must again go to PJ Nolan, who works incredibly hard at all hours of the day and night to make sure everything is perfect and will do anything to help all the players relax and get into the right frame of mind…excuse the pun!”
Brendan: Matches Played 6 Won 4 Lost 2 – Frames won 12 Frames lost 6
Mick: Matches Played 6 Won 4 Lost 2 – Frames won 12 Frames lost 6
David: Matches Played 6 Won 3 Lost 3 – Frames won 8 Frames lost 10
John: Matches Played 6 Won 4 Lost 2 – Frames won 12 Frames lost 6
Many thanks to John for taking the time out to give us insightful information on an event that I felt had a surprisingly low online presence.
Going forward, Sutton will be entering several of the remaining European Tour PTC events this season.