By Jonathan Williams
Where to start with last weekend? In some ways a triumph and in others a total shambles. They say it’s always better to end on a good note so let me start out with some of the grievances that both myself and the majority of players had from the weekend.
First and foremost, the conditions were unacceptable and totally unplayable at times. This was the first national senior event of the season and I expected the tables to be looking immaculate. Unfortunately, in my game on Table 8 (Probably the worst table in the Ivy Rooms), I actually had no idea how to circumnavigate the baize. Now that was just my table.
I am one of the biggest advocates of having the senior ranking events in the Ivy Rooms because for me it’s the best place in the country to hold our most prestigious events and the events that get the highest amount of entries. But with this accolade comes great responsibility and I felt let down this weekend.
As usual, I may be scorned by certain committee members for speaking my mind, but if I was the only one who thought this I would keep my mouth closed as the problem would be solely mine. However, this was not the case and this discontentment resonated throughout each individual I spoke to.
In the very short time I was there, and maybe I am quite short-sighted, I didn’t see a TD brush or block a table, something I spoke very highly of last season. The high break board speaks volumes. Yes, we had a 124 but that was from one of the most talented players ever to grace our sport.
As bad as I can be, being involved in a match with Joe Delaney in which his high break is just 30 speaks volumes. The overall scoring was very poor. Some top players with no breaks over 50? Strange!
As I write this article, I have the RIBSA page open and the high breaks board looks a sorry sight, although I feel it hasn’t been updated. Now I was never one to mention Irish sports council funding, but people are telling me that RIBSA gets something like €64K a year. I would love to know how it’s being spent.
I understand fully that running a club is an expensive business and recovering tables adds further expenses on top of that, but if the grant is being used in other areas and not on the recovering of tables for the first senior event of the season, I would love to know where it’s going. It’s not only me with this view. I have read a lot of things on Facebook but I won’t believe anything until I see published figures from our governing body.
Aside from the conditions, one of the best things RIBSA has done in the last few years was bring in the live streaming. That has completely gone this year and I can’t understand why. I have been told it cost around 200 euro an event, which in my eyes is quite expensive. But is this not what grant money goes towards? I don’t know. Had the final been streamed people would have been happy enough but even that didn’t occur.
The last big complaint numerous people had was the fact that it is becoming the norm for both senior and masters events to clash. This should not happen. Without naming names, I spoke to a few high-profile players this weekend, all of whom supported the notion of the senior and masters events being separated.
Now, I understand there are pros and cons for a split, but I think the pros outweigh the cons. Top players like Mick Judge, Joe Delaney, and Johnny Farrell are all regulars in the latter stages of both events and it’s caused nothing but chaos. At the weekend, poor Stephen Bateman, making his maiden final, was made to wait a staggering five hours after his semi-final concluded to play his big match.
I’m told Stephen was given an option to play on a later date but why should he even have to make that decision and him in the form of his life? The whispers were that he had now qualified for the next over 40s event in Carlow due to the length of time he was made to wait for his match. In all seriousness, though, it’s just not acceptable and RIBSA needs to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
It was suggested that next season they make the masters an over 50s category, which could still be played on the same weekend but I can guarantee it won’t cause any overlapping in matches. I support this decision as of now. Either that or play them two weeks apart and see if the numbers can rise.
In short, I felt the weekend was a big mess but I trust RIBSA to act professionally, to take the players’ considerations on board, and to act quickly on the matter. I understand I have a unique platform in the banter page and my write-ups for SnookerHQ and I want to use them positively as often as possible, but RIBSA must accept this was just a poorly run event that must be rectified in the future. I have no idea if we have a players representative in Ireland to voice concerns of the players but I am fully willing to step up to the role if required.
Now on to a more positive note. Firstly, it was great to see some old faces back playing in Carlow, most notably Davy Morris and Joe Delaney. These are two hugely talented players that would be an amazing addition to any international team. Youngsters watching them play can learn a lot. I hope they continue to enter all the rest of this season’s events.
Some worthy wins to mention now. In the first round, Ger Kelly had a great 3-2 win over Johnny Farrell, a big surprise there for a lot of people, so well done Ger. Alen Matic, although an accomplished player, was probably the second favourite going up against an up-and-coming hotshot in Noel Landers. Pete Donegan had a great 3-2 win over Jason Devaney, who has been in Ireland’s elite for the past five years or so.
Into the second round, there was nothing really noteworthy here other than Judge having a narrow 3-2 escape against Gerry Kinneen. In the last 16, Judge again managed a Harry Houdini act after escaping the wrath of teenage talent Ross Bulman, who I expect big things from this season. The start of the Bateman shocks came with a great 3-2 win over seasoned amateur Robert Murphy.
In the quarter-finals came the biggest shock of the day via Bateman beating Morris 3-1, an amazing result. Houdini Judge earned another 3-2 escape against Pete Donegan, who had a great tournament himself.
The semi-finals saw Bateman continue the fairy tale with a magnificent 4-1 win over Brendan O’Donoghue. I have no words for this win, just brilliant. The final proved a step too far for young Stephen but I can only imagine what the result would have been like if he didn’t have to wait five hours between his semi and final.
Huge congrats must go to Mick for winning once again, but the player of the tournament was, without a doubt, young Stephen Bateman. It’d be great to see if he can continue this level of form.
Overall, then, a very mixed bag of a weekend. There were some great highs and some unfortunate lows. I hope RIBSA, particularly the people responsible for playing conditions, makes sure that tables are brushed, blocked, and ironed on a regular basis.
I hope the streaming service comes back, especially for finals or on the main match table. I will even stream live on my phone if I have to at future events, and if I am allowed. I would also like there to be a players representative who makes it their business to speak to players and get a general consensus of the state of Irish snooker so they can convey the message back to the hierarchy in RIBSA.
Something I forgot to mention was the lack of quick score updates. I once again offer my services to update all scores frame by frame for as long as I am at any event – I’ll be doing this via the Facebook banter page anyway.
Finally, I think “something” needs to be done regarding the overlapping of senior and masters events. Having finals played at midnight is unacceptable in this day and age. I reiterate my stance regarding the holding of senior events in the Ivy Rooms. This venue is by far the best-equipped club in the country at present to hold these tournaments but with this accolade, like I said before, comes great responsibility.
An entry number of 62 for the first event was a very good turnout. I really hope despite some failing this weekend, these numbers continue to rise. I will be supporting each event I am able to attend with the exception of the next one due to the fact I will be heading to Chelsea vs Watford as an early birthday present.
Congratulations to Mick once again on his Harry Houdini impersonation all weekend in both the seniors and masters, and huge congratulations to Stephen Bateman on a fantastic tournament.
I hope all our loyal readers will tune in very shortly to our first instalment of the new “Sniper Shot” player profile that begins with the legend that is Brendan O’Donoghue.
Until next time, Sniper over and out.