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Sniper’s Snippets: Grand Prix

By Jonathan Williams

The Grand Prix for me went better than expected. It wasn’t necessarily the best in termsĀ of a last eight appearance, but more the fact that I beat Robert Murphy for what I think was the first time in around 12 years. Now, I may have only played Robert a handful of times in that period but I can’t remember if I ever had a win over him before last weekend.

TJ Dowling Brendan O'Donoghue Grand Prix
Dowling and O’Donoghue now both have two ranking victories this season. Photo credit: Marian Leacy

Our games usually go down to deciders and when I was 2-0 down I feared the worst. But I played three solid enough frames in a row and had a 40 break to take a nice lead in the decider. Robbie was well below his best as he never usually misses crucial balls. One of his best qualities is to go for his big shots and get them to start a break.

Going back to my first game, I played a good friend of mine in Paul McGrane – a very nice genuine chap who I used to travel to many events with. Paul was the first person ever to beat me in a competitive All-Ireland event in the Under-18 Leinster Championships and I haven’t forgiven him since. Unfortunately we both always manage to get into a dog fight and bring each other way down. That said, this wasn’t the best example of that as we both played fairly well, especially Paul having a lovely 60 break in the first frame after being 30 down.

The second frame was massive. I was ahead the whole frame until Paul was clearing the colours. He got down to the pink and left himself a tricky black across the table which he juggled and left it hanging for me. In the last frame once again I was ahead the whole frame until the colours and Paul had a great chance to clear but played a poor shot on the brown to again leave it hanging. It was an easy finish for me but he will be disappointed by his missed opportunities.

In the quarter-finals my opponent was Johnny Farrell. We had never played before so I was looking forward to it. That was until I came down off the buzz from beating Murphy and the pain in my shoulder from my injury earlier this season was at its maximum. I didn’t feel a bit of pain playing McGrane but I could feel it coming on half way through the Murphy game. By the decider in the Murphy game I was in agony but the adrenaline of beating him for the first time saw me through.

Anyway, injury aside I am not sure it would have made that much of a difference. Johnny does not miss easy balls, simple as that. He doesn’t make silly mistakes and his safety is top notch. I did have my chances and just didn’t take them so I won’t lament over my loss.

Judging from Johnny’s masters win the next day he felt in very good form so I was beaten by the better player on the day. It is a credit to himself that he still has the desire and ability to continue at such a high standard.

However, I have to mention whilst I was 2-1 down and on a 40 break, I played a red across the table into the middle pocket on table five. I played it very slow and it drifted off a good inch. I had the frame in my grasp, but left the red hanging and he cleared the table. One of the best players in the country to finish off a frame from behind for sure.

There were a few stand out performances from this weekend it must be said. In the first round Shane Bates did extremely well to force a decider after being 2-0 down against Brendan O’Donoghue. One of Brendan’s problems is that he tends to start off slowly in a lot of events and gets better as he progresses – like a lot of us I suppose. Paul Ludden had a great show against Irish internatonal David Cassidy, although Cassidy is having some new cue problems I’ve heard.

Mark Owens had his chances after going 2-1 up against Johnny Farrell and will be disappointed not to have taken them, eventually losing 3-2. Alan Cusack probably gets my player of the tournament, beating Benny O’Brien 3-0 and Philip Browne subsequently in his second match.

All that being said the best performance of the first round, although it came to a loss, was that of Paula Judge. She was 2-0 down against Paul McGrane, losing two close frames, and she came back to 2-2 with some great snooker and composure. Sexism aside, Paula plays on the ladies tour where the standard is not as high, so being able to compete and force a decider with a player of McGrane’s standard was a great achievement – although she might feel otherwise. Practicing with the lads in Celbridge as well as her brother Mick is doing her the world of good and she will dominate the ladies events as well as international events for years to come after Michelle Sherwin packs it in.

The quarter-finals threw up one big enough shock in Mark Tuite’s 3-1 victory over Rodney Goggins, who himself in the previous round had whitewashed Michael Judge. I watched his match and Tuite played brilliantly, producing great safety and scoring well when he got in. I must take back my branding of Mark as a grinder as he scores a whole lot heavier than me and has had a great return season after his McCrudden-esque retirement from Irish events.

Big congratulations of course to the eventful winner TJ Dowling. On his best form he is more or less unstoppable and it was a great result beating Brendan 4-0 in the final, especially with Brendan chasing history for winning the most ranking event titles.

Unfortunately, the entry number was very poor for this weekend. Having less than 40 players does take away from the event a little but, in saying that, all the top players were there and you can only beat who’s in front of you. I can only assume the dwindling numbers are a result of players being unable to qualify for an international team, as that would be my reasoning.

The economy is on the rise so I don’t like that as an excuse any more as to falling entry numbers. I do expect a big entry for the National Championships as it has a completely different feel and is played over longer frames. I would expect close to 70 to be entering this event and I will be giving my shoulder the rest it deserves to go into the tournament as strong as possible.

Thanks to the Ivy Rooms for their great hospitality and facilities, as well as to the tournament directors who finally started to put the big name games on the show tables. At least from what I saw anyway. Not to forget the live streaming with the new live scoring facility. These are great additions.

Finally, the best of luck to the Irish lads competing in Cyprus at the European Championships this week and next.

Until next time, Sniper over and out!

Click here to view the draw.

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