By Jonathan Williams
My preparation for the Irish Open last week was pretty decent. I have been playing in the local leagues in Carrickmacross and since I put on a new tip a few weeks ago it sort of made me practice. I did a solid four or five days before this event and felt good going there. Despite that, I certainly didn’t produce any form in my first game.
I was playing a good friend of mine in Diarmuid O’Connor, who has come on greatly in the last few seasons. We used to go to Maynooth University together and I was surprised how much he has actually come on since I left. Even still, neither of us played remotely well.
Diarmuid had our highest break, a 43 or something like that. Our table, number 9, would be my least favorite in the venue and I found it very slow. It didn’t help that I was practicing up on the Royal Navan’s star table a couple of days beforehand, which was super quick. Big Mistake. Totally different conditions.
I struggled throughout the match and never felt confident. On top of that, nothing was really going in my favour, but I eventually won 3-2 on the last black after Diarmuid missing two easy pots on both the pink and the black to send me packing. It was such a relief and probably the reason I played a lot better in the following rounds.
My second round opponent was Colm Gilcreest. It was himself who I was playing with in Navan a few days prior to the event in Carlow and he absolutely walloped me off the table with a brace of 4-1 drubbings. He was buzzing. However, I know Colm is not a fan of the conditions in the Ivy Rooms and rarely hits top form, at least not on the Saturday anyway. His form tends to appear on a Sunday only it seems, when it’s the turn of the Masters tournaments.
In the first frame he was 30 ahead with one red left and I cleared to win on the black. It was a huge turning point, not to mention the fact that I could see he was struggling to adjust to the pace of the table and the cushions – I knew he didn’t want to be there. I played pretty well overall in fairness and Colm was kind enough to give up half way through the third frame and say “I’ve had enough”. I was happy to take my 3-0 win as merit points are vital for the ranking system.
In the last 16 I met Karl Fitzpatrick, a player who I’ve always enjoyed facing as I love playing fast players like myself. Karl is a solid potter but lacks a bit of discipline and tends to push the boat out just a little too much I feel. As I was scoring well, I took advantage of nearly every opportunity that he gave me. 3-0 was maybe a little bit flattering but I did deserve the win in the end. The match only lasted 45 mins I was told – I enjoy these games.
My quarter-final was against Robert Murphy, who beat me in both of our last meetings, including with a 70 clearance in the decider of our last clash. I enjoy playing Robbie, though. He plays snooker correctly, respects his opponents, acknowledges good shots and brings out my best safety game. Unfortunately I don’t enjoy our results as he once again beat me 3-2, this time after potting the most ridiculous black along the bottom rail. A 2/10 shot, but hats off.
As far as I can see, and I didn’t see all his games, but even when Robbie is behind he will play the same shot with the same confident approach as he trusts his cue action a lot. It was a match I had numerous chances in to win. I scored well but I just missed the odd shot or played one or two bad safeties which were ultimately punished. I’ll get him yet.
Elsewhere, there was a few stand out results from players during the event. Charlie Sweeney played well all weekend, a player with a lovely temperament around the table, and his 3-0 scoreline against up-and-coming star Ross Bulman, who bet Charlie in a junior final not so long ago, was a great result. Charlie then went on to beat David Cassidy from 2-0 behind if I remember correctly, another great result as Cassidy has played for Ireland a lot over the last few years and is a top player on his day.
Of course, a mention has to go to TJ Dowling who came out the eventual winner. This was hardly a shock to anyone at this stage, but just another day at the office for the ‘Tiger’. He knows full well he is still one of the top players in the country. None of his results were amazing nor shocking as this is what is expected from the current national champion. TJ is off to represent Ireland now in the World Amateur Championship. The Irish Open was great preparation and I wish him the very best of luck over in Qatar.
Last but not least, I have to give the stand out performance of the weekend to none other than Philip “The Finisher” Browne. His rise to the top of the game has been very visible to see over the last few campaigns. He is reaping the rewards for all the effort and dedication he is putting in as well as a good investment with his new cue. No one could have predicted him beating Rodney Goggins, not to mention beating him 3-1 in such a clinical fashion. Then to follow this up by beating Murphy 4-0 to make his maiden senior ranking event final was just remarkable in my opinion.
Like myself back in May, Philip overcame Rodney for the first time en route to reaching his first senior ranking final, only to maybe peak too soon and not perform to the top of his ability in the final showdown itself. I know the feeling all too well from the National Championship. I watched Philip and TJ’s final but neither of them played especially well as they will admit themselves. TJ was a little bit more clinical with his finishing and that made all the difference. Yet, a great weekend for Browne and a platform to reach even greater heights over the coming seasons.
The tournament itself was run very well and I must compliment the refereeing staff in brushing and blocking every single table before a match went on. This is what’s to be expected at the top amateur level. Some of the tables were playing a little inconsistent, so between rolls and speed it was hard to judge, but as the saying goes, “it’s the same for both players on the day,” which is true. Maybe they can be looked at before the next event. That’s up to our governing body RIBSA, of course.
I would once again like to say both the ranking points system, along with its merit points, are exactly how it should be done – with every frame counting. Also, the live streaming of a lot of games is a great addition to the season. However, I do think that certain “top” matches should be held back or put forward to be on these main TV tables as, let’s face it, that’s what people want to see.
Finally, a big thanks to the other Marian in my life (my mother’s name is Marian) who feeds me down in Carlow as well as her lovely staff and the people who update the rankings. I know it’s very time consuming but the effort is duly noted.
Until next time, Sniper over and out!