Martin McCrudden won the second Premier Tour event of the Irish season after a crushing 4-0 defeat of Robert Murphy in the final on Sunday.
McCrudden joins Rodney Goggins on the champions list so far this season after coming through unscathed at the Ivy Rooms in Carlow.
In the early rounds, the three-time National champion actually overcame Goggins in a tight decider before subsequent wins over Philip Browne, Colm Gilcreest and Jason Devaney brought him to the final, which he won with ease.
Murphy’s run included victories over defending National champ Michael Judge and the runner-up from Event No.1, John Sutton.
And I’m delighted to announce that Celbridge’s Sutton is the newest member of the SnookerHQ after agreeing to help out with comments on the Irish amateur scene throughout this season.
Sutton, known as ‘The Storm’, already gave an account of the 2013 Home Internationals here and I’m delighted to have another knowledgeable player to offer insight from within the game domestically.
In addition to Sutton, Johnny ‘Sniper’ Williams returns for a third season covering the game in Ireland.
For all his efforts over the last couple of years, Johnny deserves the title of Chief Analyst and therefore I am starting a motion for him to have a second nickname – Johnny ‘Giles’ Williams!
I put a few questions to the pair and here is their account of the weekend’s action.
On their own tournament…
Sniper: My weekend went a lot better than expected. I honestly put in two hours practice since the last tournament and I was expecting to be sent home after my first match as it was against up-and-coming star Aaron Tobin. Luckily for me he was a no-show and I got a bye. My next opponent was Brendan O’Donoghue and I expected normal service to resume. To my surprise, I took a 2-0 lead. Then, Brendan knocks in a 70 and 60 break to go 2-2 and I feared the worst. Fortunately for me he left me a relatively easy chance in the last frame to score a few points and I fell over the line.
My next opponent, who is having a good season himself and beat me in the last event 3-2 was Karl Fitzpatrick. He went 1-0 up potting some amazing balls and is a fast player with loads of confidence. This, however, is also his downfall as he went for too many 50/50 pots and left me in and I played solid to win 3-1. In the quarter-final I had ex-Irish champion Jason Devaney. This match did not start until about two hours after I finished my match against Karl and to be honest all my momentum and buzz had left me. I was cold and I expected to play like a man who practiced for two hours the night before…. which I did. Taking nothing away from Jason because he played excellently and didn’t miss an easy ball but my safety was shocking and I gave him too many easy chances.
I was delighted with a quarter-final result as it will probably keep me in the Premier Tour for next season which is my season’s goal. With working three jobs now and one of them being a full-time secondary school teacher, I just don’t have the time for practice. I am fully prepared to have a poor season and I will be back stronger next season when I can relax a little.
The Storm: This tournament for me was a bit disappointing. Although I won two matches and got to the quarters I lost 3-2 to Robert Murphy when I should have won on 51 in the decider. I was in the balls and I missed. In fairness to Murphy he did well to win the frame and match and I played well up to this point and was scoring well.
On the rest of the tournament….
Sniper: In a way the weekend’s results were surprising for some but not all that surprising for me. It’s been a while since either Goggins, Hogan or O’Donoghue didn’t contest an Irish ranking semi-final but this was the case on this occasion. Michael Judge, who has come back to some amazing form and when on top form is the best in Ireland by far, was once again in the latter stages facing the ever formidable Robert Murphy – who is just an all-round amazing player that never gives up. I love both their attitudes and on this occasion Robert came out the victor.
The other semi was contested between my conqueror Devaney and Martin Mc Crudden. I’ve heard Martin has been playing a lot coming up to this event and it certainly showed. He had some great wins along the way against Philip Browne, Gilcreest and Goggins and knocked in a 133 break earlier so he was in form. When he hits top form he is almost impossible to beat for me. But, a bit like Ronnie O’Sullivan, he can be quite inconsistent at times and sometimes looks like he doesn’t even want to be there.
The Storm: I think the right two people got to the final and the most deserving man on the day won it. Martin was 2-0 down to Goggins in last 32 match and came back well to win, had back-to-back tons against Browne in the next match and had two more tons in later rounds. Gilcreest had a great chance to put Martin out in the quarters but Martin prevailed 3-2.
On the other side, Robbie (Murphy) had good wins over Josh Boileau, Keith Sheldreck, Michael Judge and myself on the way to the final and by his own admission he didn’t play well in the final. Martin fully deserved to beat him though I didn’t see it myself.
There were a couple of shocks, which is always good for a tournament. Johnny Williams beat O’Donoghue 3-2 in the last 32. Johnny isn’t really playing at all these days but from what I saw of the match his long potting was very good and if you pot the long balls you always give yourself a chance. Although Martin beating Goggins isn’t a shock, to beat him from 2-0 down is an achievement in itself and Rodney missed a couple of opportunities to put the match away which you don’t normally see.
On the venue…
Sniper: On the venue itself the Ivy Rooms has stepped up its game once again. The tables were as fast as ever and in immaculate condition, well looked after and a great new viewing area for spectators. This, along with lovely food, always makes for a good weekend for me anyway. I do, however, miss their sky sports coverage for the soccer when I’m waiting on my games.
The Storm: The revamped Ivy Rooms is a dream to play in with the new tables and new seating adding to the atmosphere, as does the fact that it’s the top players in it with an open draw and there is no protection. When I say open draw the top 8 are seeded – after that it’s all open which adds to the excitement of seeing and playing in the draw.
On the new Premier Tour…
Sniper: This Premier Tour for me has proved to be a major success in my opinion. As people have to pre-pay for three events, the prize money has been consistent despite some no shows in the first two events which was the main idea behind the pre-paying system. I love the format and tournaments have been running a lot smoother with this new system/format. I was right behind the campaign for it and it’s working well. The Intermediates, Masters and underage comps are all thriving this season and it seems Irish snooker is back on the rise again. Even though I’m not in the mix I love to see it.
The Storm: After two events of the new format all the feedback I’m hearing is that it’s a massive success so far as the tournaments are running along smoothly and even with one or two no shows it doesn’t matter because with the pre-pay system it does not affect the prize fund.
The Sniper: All in all another great weekend and it’s very tight at the top. Off the top of my head I’m not sure who is top now – it might be Martin – but I know this season will go right down to the wire. There are just too many good players.
The Storm: After two events it’s all to play for as only 70 points separate 1 from 8 in the rankings and for a whole 6 hours I was no.1 in the rankings but no.2 for me at the moment is a good start. There are no easy matches for anyone in this new format so a few more surprises in store for the rest of the season I’m sure.
Rankings Top 8
1. McCrudden – 210
2. Sutton – 200
3. Devaney – 200
4. Murphy – 200
5. Goggins – 190
6. Hogan – 180
7. Judge – 180
8. Gilcreest – 140
Many thanks again to both Johnny and John for their great input and we look forward to hearing more from them in the upcoming events.