Features and Interviews

Sniper’s Snippets: The Irish Open

The second senior ranking event of the Irish amateur campaign took place last weekend at the Ivy Rooms in Carlow.

Josh Boileau looks like hes back to top form - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Josh Boileau looks like hes back to top form – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Unfortunately, though, there is no champion to heap praise on as of yet because the final, scheduled to be played either on Saturday or Sunday, was not contested.

In theory, the senior ranking events are supposed to be played on Saturdays with the masters discipline taking precedent on Sundays.

In practice, though, this is never the case and the senior events generally always end up finishing on the second day.

However, on this occasion due to stalwart and former professional Michael Judge competing in both the senior and the masters tournaments, the former could not be completed in time.

So, as it stands the final between Judge and Josh Boileau – who is seeking his maiden triumph – will be played sometime within the next two weeks.

All a bit of a mess really, but hopefully this mishap will lead to an amendment to the scheduling to ensure it never happens again.

Meanwhile, it was a good week for the returning Johnny Williams after he embarked on a run to the quarter-finals.

The ‘Sniper’ was on hand again to give his account of the weekend’s action, so without further ado it’s over to him…

By Jonathan Williams

This event went, once again, a lot better than expected.

For now it seems I am getting away with little or no practice and it’s just coming together for me on the bigger occasion because in practice I have been poor. It has always been the opposite way around for me. I would practice 3-4 hours a day whilst I was in Maynooth and get pumped 3-0 in the first round by the likes of George Tierney – which goes to show how bad it was at times.

Johnny 'Sniper' Williams

Johnny ‘Sniper’ Williams

Anyway, back to this event, I played a very young chap called Darragh Fulham in my first match and neither of us played very well. I think it was his first senior ranking event and he has a lot of maturing to do. I can see a bit of potential there but he needs to harden up and not respect his opponents as much as he did with me. In the end my experience saw me through in that first match and I advanced 3-0.

My second match was against a very tricky opponent in Benny O’Brien. I have a good record against Benny I think but, if memory serves me correct, in one event in particular that escapes my mind, he beat me 3-0 in about half an hour.

He is a very quick player and I like watching him play but, like me, he just misses the odd easy ball and maybe rushes his shots a little. We both have a similar playing style, which is fast and attacking. I had a nice commanding lead in the first frame until I missed and let Benny in, but he missed a pretty easy brown on a nice break whilst clearing up the colours.

I took that frame and like most players his head dropped a little, it was a huge frame in fairness after my lead. The next frame I had a nice 85 break and the last frame I controlled well. A 3-0 win against someone of his calibre was great now that we are counting frame difference this year.

In my last 16 match I played Stephen Reddington, one of the nicest players on the circuit and who has one of the nicest cue actions also. He was just after one of his best victories on the tour, beating Martin McCrudden 3-2, although he was 2-0 up at one stage.

I was fearful of his break-building so I went into the match a little cagey. What happened was something that happens me a lot. I think, because Stephen came off such a high by beating Martin, he let his level drop a little and with that missed a few too many easy balls.

He let me in very easily and I didn’t have to work too hard to get my cue arm going. I felt really good and confident in this match as my cue arm was going and I was after winning six frames on the bounce. Luckily, I came out once again a 3-0 victor.

Having won nine frames on the bounce, I was feeling a lot better about myself. However, as I told a few friends on the day, I was bought tickets to a Keith Barry show for my birthday in Athlone, two hours away, and I thought I was going to have to throw my last match. As it turned out, I was more interested in playing snooker than going to the show so I put my friend on the bus and told her to go on and enjoy it without me as she is a big fan and doesn’t watch snooker.

Eventually it was time for my quarter-final against a good friend and an old snooker foe of mine, Greg Casey. Casey is a player with heaps of international experience and a great snooker mind. Myself and Greg always have great matches, I think we are pretty even now in head-to-heads.

I went into the match very confident having not dropped a frame and my cue arm was feeling good. This showed as my first chance in the balls I had a nice 48 break, but this was the last moment I felt good all match. I had a tricky pink the length of the table to secure the first frame and juggled it. Worst mistake ever!

There was one red left and Greg put me in knots with every safety shot he played after that, snookering me about four times in a row and I think I missed them all. In that frame he needed five snookers to win and he got them all.

I was deflated, we both got down to the last black and I left Greg an easy enough shot to win. After all his effort he missed it and left it hanging, I potted the black and I felt like I had won my first ranking event. Indeed, my cue action was on the way home and I never really got it back after that.

We both played rubbish until the deciding frame which Greg commanded from start to finish and didn’t let me in once. There was nothing I could do really. He deserved his win after not dropping the head in frame one.

Overall I was happy with my day’s play, and I was only a frame away from a semi-final so I can’t be that hard on myself having not put in enough effort to justify any rewards.

Entries were good with all 57 applicants turning up and showing their support for Irish snooker which is great to see. Snooker really seems to be bouncing back a little this season.

Conditions were very good despite one cushion that was bouncing a bit. Both myself and Mick Judge hadn’t a clue where our white ball was going when we played on Table Six. That’s to be expected in a club set-up. Other than that everything was great on the day and I heard no complaints from anyone other than TJ Dowling saying it’s the “worst he has ever played” before taking Josh Boileau to a deciding frame!

Judge, left, reached the 2004 Grand Prix semi-finals - photo courtesy of Ivy Rooms Carlow.

Judge, left, reached the 2004 Grand Prix semi-finals – photo courtesy of Ivy Rooms Carlow.

The player who stood out for me this weekend was Josh, by a mile in fairness.

Last season I felt he struggled – he was injured for a while and was getting beaten by players well below his level. That said, he has truly bounced back. He looked very smooth and confident around the table, he never looks like missing, has a great temperament and a strong safety game and I can see him doing very well in the seniors this year.

Another mention has to go to John O’Sullivan, who also had a great tournament by reaching the last four. He is one of the trickiest players you can get on the circuit. He can be great or terrible and will admit that himself. Last weekend he was great and had some impressive wins, most notably those over David Hogan (3-0) and Ryan Cronin (3-1). If he plays like that every month he should and will finish top 10.

For me, it was a bit of a disappointment that the event was not finished on the same weekend, but this doesn’t happen that often. I believe this had something to do with Mick Judge playing in both events.

I do feel that the senior event final should have taken precedent over his over 40s event but I know that he is gunning for a place in the world masters so it’s just as important to him – or at least that’s what I have heard. I can see himself or Colm Gilcreest doing serious damage on the world scene at masters level.

I’m not sure what, if anything, can be done about this not happening again other than someone beating him early on in the seniors because he is more than capable of winning both events on the same weekend. This would be a nice accolade in itself as he would be the first person to do so.

Last but not least a big shout out to my old pal Joe “Value” Corrigan on his first ranking event quarter-final (in all competitions) since 2008. He played well all weekend despite getting a thumping in Navan against Gilcreest a few days prior to the event. A true warrior.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the next one now, and hopefully I can keep up a bit of good form and make some sort of international team again.

Until next time, Sniper over and out!

Click here to view the Irish Open draw (Event No.2)

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