As promised, this season will see the return of Jonathan Williams to SnookerHQ as he keeps an eye on the Irish scene for us.
It’s great to have the ‘Sniper’ back and, like before, he’ll be documenting his own campaign as well as expressing his views on the rest of the Irish tour following each ranking event.
As always, a big thank you to Johnny, a fellow Monaghan man, for his excellent insight into the game in Ireland.
Over to the ‘Sniper’.
By Jonathan Williams
The first event for me at the RIBSA Classic in Carlow went pretty much as well as I had hoped for, probably a bit better considering my lack of practice in all fairness. In my first frame, first ball, I knocked in a long red the length of the table and immediately I felt the pre-match nerves leave me. That same frame I cleared the table with an 81 break so I was happy enough. I literally had three days of practice before this event and I was well beaten in all those sessions, not to mention I never had a break over 30, so I was very surprised with the 81 break.
I went on to win that match 3-0 to my surprise and my next match was against Shane Gorman, a very tough over 40s opponent who I actually expected to beat me on the day. However, God was very much on my side as I got every little bit of luck and run of the ball and I ended up winning that match with another 3-0 scoreline. This is a huge benefit now with the merit points being re-introduced to the ranking system.
My last 16 match was against an old foe of mine in David Hogan. I wasn’t in the least bit nervous for this game as I didn’t expect much off myself. That said, I started the match with a nice 46 break and easily won the first frame. In the second frame David had a good break, leaving it 1-1. The following frame was just a complete farce. We both had multiple chances, he left me in about five times and I couldn’t control the white at all, before he took it to go 2-1.
In the last frame once again I had a great chance on the last red to nick the frame but I miscounted and left it that I could only draw, so I started looking for snookers and messed the frame up. He ran out a 3-1 victor in a game that really could have went either way.
With the merit point system coming back in I think I will now be ranked number 9 going into the next event so I am quite happy with this for the time being. I will be putting a lot more practice in for the next tournament to give myself the best chance possible.
Overall, it was a great tournament and very well run. The conditions were sound but first and foremost it was fantastic seeing a lot of the old faces again. Being away for a year made me miss the game dearly. Seeing all the players heading off to represent Ireland at international level also made me quite jealous so it was good to get back in the mix. A few other players also made their way back after a year’s sabbatical which made the tournament even more special.
There were a few quality first round matches, most notably the clash of Martin McCrudden and Mick Judge, which Martin eventually ran out a 3-2 victor in. In saying that, the shock of the tournament might also have been Tony Corrigan defeating Martin in his very next match. I don’t know Tony or his game that well but I do know Martin was favourite to win that match on current form.
Josh Boileau went out early but had a fantastic 142 break that I missed somehow. Even so, it just goes to show that the boy still has serious talent and will be a huge threat to all involved this year.
The player that caught my eye this weekend, though, was Ross Bulman. I had heard lots about him and how he was the next up and coming superstar. Now, after having seen how confident and relaxed he is around a table, I can understand why these rumours have spread. I think he has a great future ahead of him in the game of snooker and I think he will dominate junior events over the next few years.
It was great to see the numbers returning for the first events at both senior and masters level. The entry fees going entirely into the prize fund is something the players have been asking for this last few years and I think they have stood up and shown their support for the association as they stood by their convictions. RIBSA is going back to basics here. They tried and failed in the past few seasons to spice things up a little, through no fault of their own I may add, but the new changes just didn’t make sense or attract as many players as they had hoped for.
Another revelation this year has to be the return of the merit point system as it now means that every frame counts. One frame can cost you or earn you a place on the Irish team for example and for me this is the best aspect of the new system. Players will become more competitive and games will be more intense and fun to watch. I was defeated in the last 16 this weekend but having not lost a frame until then I think I’ll have the higher ranking, which is great for me seeding wise at least.
All in all it was a great first tournament back – well run, great conditions and good food. I could go on and on about eventual winner Brendan O’Donoghue and his triumph this weekend but his titles speak for themselves. He is the man to beat this season and just never stops trying, he gives his all in every match and never gives up. He is an inspiration and the perfect example to all youngsters out there.
I suppose a small mention has to be given to runner-up TJ Dowling also. He was one of the players who gave last season a miss and he came back all guns blazing. Everyone knows of TJ’s talents but everyone knows that he can have off days too and maybe sometimes throws the towel in a little too early. When everything clicks for TJ he is nearly impossible to beat – great in the balls, great cue action and excellent safety game. Whether or not he can keep this momentum and determination up for the entire season remains to be seen as it has failed him in the past.
I hope the numbers continue to grow and we end up with some top quality Irish teams who can bring us back some silverware. My ultimate goals this season are to reach my maiden ranking event final and to regain my place among the elite, in doing so earning that Home International spot which I last had when Ireland lifted the crown in 2011/12.
Until next time!