By Jonathan Williams
Wow, so what a tournament that turned out to be!
I honestly never thought I’d be writing my final Sniper’s Snippets as runner-up, and it’s funny because I was fully intent on not even entering the National Championship as I had planned on going to a friend’s stag party in Germany. Time constraints held me back, so low and behold I made the final. Crazy stuff.
What more can be said that wasn’t already seen on camera. Coming into this tournament I put in a full three days practice before hand, the most I had put in all season, so I felt good and thought I could play my way into the event, and that’s exactly what happened.
I played poorly against Darragh Cusack in my first round match and got very frustrated as I had put in the hours. My mind was casting back to my Maynooth Scholarship days where I would play two or three hours a day then go to Carlow and get smashed by an Under-10 or something ridiculous.
However, I got a bit of luck in the fifth frame and it turned the match in my favour. I just dug deep, played scrappy snooker and scraped through 4-2. Darragh played pretty well and could be a handful for any player next season if he keeps the practice up.
My last 32 match against Tom O’Driscoll was farcical to say the least. I can honestly say I have never had so much good fortune in a game. Nothing I did wrong left Tom with an easy chance, and everything Tom did wrong left me in to score. It’s hard to explain all the little pieces of luck.
One example was near the end when I was 3-1 up and I played a safety. The yellow flew around three or four cushions, went into the pocket and I was inch perfect on the green for the match. I decided to refuse it, but it gets worse. Whilst I hit the green around the angles, not looking where either ball would be going, I ended up snookering Tom. He duly missed and just gave up, citing, “there’s just no point.”
I could not have agreed more as he was never winning that match. Maybe my good run in the end was good karma for my kind gesture, but I’ll never refuse match ball again. As the final showed me, your luck doesn’t follow you around each match.
My last 16 encounter was against the very tricky opponent John O’Sullivan, who had beaten me very easily in an Edenderry Snooker Memorial before and this was playing on my mind before the game. He gives nothing away, plays tight safety and can score well in among the balls. John’s downfall like myself is probably long potting, as we don’t have the cue action.
In fairness, though, it was a pretty good match – very tactical and I enjoyed it. I always felt in control as I never trailed and I felt like I could score heavily. I made a 78 break and John himself had a 60-odd run to bring it back to 3-2 at one stage but I played a good last frame and thankfully came out a 4-2 victor.
It was a long match, but I never felt that John was dragging me down. Usually against slow players my head would go but I have turned a curve. I am a teacher now and patience is my specialty. John is a great match player and I never like to play him, although he’s a really nice fella who had some kind words to say to me before my final.
Quarter-final time and it was my nemesis Rodney Goggins. I had never beaten him before, in any competition, but I always knew I had it in me. I wasn’t going to just let Rodney walk all over me like I did in previous clashes.
From the very first ball I hit I felt so comfortable. For me, the tables have never played better down there. The cloths were so fast and reactive, and for someone like me who is not blessed with an amazing cue action, it’s such a bonus. It was for this reason I always played so well up in Maynooth on the Riley table which had a super fast cloth. It just suits my game so much more, maybe in the same way it suits Mark Allen on the Main Tour. He wouldn’t be in the top 32 on slow cloths if you ask me.
Anyway, I played close to perfect match play snooker in this game. My safety was great, my scoring was okay and, like Rodney said to me after, I wasn’t being dragged into going for every long pot. I don’t score as well as I used to so I’m now a percentage player.
We eventually got to 4-4 and the deciding frame was mental. I played some great safety and for once Rodney went for numerous long pots and missed them, which was something quite foreign to me given our previous meetings. He left me in a few times with easy chances and I built up a nice lead, until boom! I miss effectively match ball and Rodney leaves me in a horrible snooker. I missed it about five times and I lost the head. I felt, here we go again.
I finally got out of it and then boom again! He puts me in another snooker, I miss it another four or five times and eventually Rodney grabs the lead after being 50 behind. I was sick.
I regained the advantage briefly but he cleared down to the pink and I was shocked to see him take it on to the middle. He left it hanging and I played a great, controlled pot to land inch perfect on the black. At this point, a million things went through my mind and I missed the black by about five foot, or so it seemed. The black went up the table near the left corner whilst the white was glued to the bottom rail. He took it on and I was 100% sure it was going in, but thankfully he missed and gifted me an easy shot into the middle which I potted, followed by a swift battering of the table.
I was never so relieved in all my life. Without a doubt it is the best win of my career thus far. It must be said that Rodney was not a fan of our table and said he could actually feel it shake as he played the shots. I couldn’t feel anything so it didn’t annoy me, but it must have put him off. So thank you table!
My semi-final against Josh Boileau can be summed up very easily. Although Rodney’s match was my best win, this was probably the most perfect match play snooker I have ever played. I remember missing only one easy ball, my safety was top class and every long ball I took on I potted. Josh, on the other hand, missed a lot of easy balls and I was shocked to take a 4-0 lead into the break.
I was so nervous for this match, and I needed the 4-0 lead or I might have crumbled. Josh pulled one back and I actually started to relax. I can’t remember what happened after that, only I didn’t make many mistakes and I punished all of his. I had messages after from friends telling me that’s the best they have seen me play, and I couldn’t disagree. I know I didn’t score heavily but that didn’t bother me in the slightest. My aim was to win the match, not to win the high break prize.
Unfortunately, what should have then been my best display and my highlight against TJ Dowling in the final was a little bit of an anti-climax.
I started very slowly and I felt very tired. I tried to get a B&B in Carlow after the semi-final on Saturday but everywhere was full due to the rally that was also on. I had to travel back to Dublin to stay in a friend’s place but, as nice as his offer was, his sofa bed wasn’t the ideal place to sleep.
That said, I was buzzing after my Boileau win, and nervous about my maiden final the next day. I got about five hours sleep and felt drained. It’s not an excuse for my defeat as TJ was by far the better player – indeed, he was the best player throughout the tournament, dismantling players with ease – but I felt I couldn’t give my best performance between a lack of sleep, nerves, and expectations from friends and family.
I went 3-1 down in no time before I woke up, got a bit of luck and scraped a 3-3 scoreline at the end of the first session. TJ was getting angry at this stage and, if the break didn’t come when it did, I feel the match could have been a lot closer and I’m sure he wouldn’t disagree.
Once the second session began, you could see he was up for it but nothing went my way. I missed easy balls but when TJ missed he left me with difficult starting reds or put big colours safe. It just wasn’t happening. The close frame he won to go 4-3 up was huge. I was on the second last red and went to take a red off the cushion as the pink was hanging over the middle. Of course, I subsequently double-kissed the red and it stayed on the cushion.
After that it was all TJ. He potted some amazing single reds and scored quite well. He is one of the best, if not the best, in the country at nine-foot reds with control around the angles to land on blue or baulk colour. He times the ball to perfection.
It wasn’t a great final but TJ says that’s always the way they go. In saying that, I don’t think I have ever witnessed a better clearance to win frame and match under the circumstances. I was 20-odd ahead with most of the balls on cushions and he does a Ronnie, getting them all out in the open. It was incredible and you just have to hold your hands up and accept today wasn’t your day. He fully deserved his win and what an amazing achievement to have won a third title 18 years after his previous one. His father must have been looking down on him with immense pride.
I would just like to say a big thank you to the Ivy Rooms and everyone involved in the Championship Finals weekend. It was a great occasion for Irish snooker and I was thrilled to be involved in it. The tables have never been in better condition and I hope they are maintained like that over the summer for next season. The live streaming was such a great success as well. It would make a whole lot of sense to have at least one or two “Show Tables” live streamed for every snooker event next season, the whole way down the ranks. It will only do wonders for our game I feel.
A big thanks to all my fellow snooker players and friends for all your support over the weekend. It really gave me hope and confidence. I hope to see you all back on the scene again next year where I think it’s going to be the tightest and most exciting finish to a season yet. Hopefully I can beat one of you in a final.
Finally, I think with my latest run of form, I may have just earned a place on the HOME INTERNATIONALS TEAM…and we all know how that ended the last time I was involved!
Sniper over and out for another season.
Many thanks to the ‘Sniper’ for all of his excellent insight into the Irish scene once again this season.