There are exciting times ahead for young players in Dublin and across Ireland with the launch of a new Junior Snooker Academy in CrossGuns Snooker Club.
Fin Ruane, the owner of CrossGuns in Phibsboro, is delighted to put his recently acquired status as a WPBSA World Snooker coach to good use as he attempts to reinvigorate the game – particularly in the capital city.
Ruane was once a talented Irish junior player in his own right and, along with close friend Ken Doherty and some others, travelled to London almost three decades ago hoping to make some waves in the game.
While it never worked out professionally for Ruane, who is now a devoted family man with two kids of his own, he boasts a rich snooker background and took over the ownership of CrossGuns after the passing of his father – a former President of the Republic of Ireland Billiards and Snooker Association – in the mid-1990s.
Since then, Ruane has always taken a keen interest in the sport domestically and in the last few years he has focused his efforts more specifically on the grassroots, recognising the importance of encouraging young talent early on.
CrossGuns is also a terrific place to learn the trade, with a focus on cue sports, rather than slot machines, inside a small but atmospheric building that has perfectly maintained the fine heritage long associated with the most traditional snooker clubs.
It is hoped that this Junior Snooker Academy could not only be a place for young fans to take up the game recreationally, but also an opportunity to possibly source a future Irish champion on the Main Tour.
“Junior snooker has always been very close to my heart and to see the dwindling numbers of entries at all age levels nationally has alarmed me no end,” Ruane told SnookerHQ.
“The general feedback is that simply nothing is being done to encourage juniors to play the game and unless you’re an established junior it appears you have little or no chance of progressing.
“Parents have spoken to me about having to travel great distances to a venue used to host junior events; when you add the cost of petrol, food for the day, and entry fees it all adds up to an expensive day with sometimes very little coming out of it.
“My aim is to bring the game to the juniors out there – Dublin in particular has always shown strength in numbers down through the years in the junior game but this has decreased dramatically due to several factors, such as the closure of clubs and more importantly the cost.
“My club is based just ten minutes from Dublin City Centre and is pretty easy to reach, so with that in mind I’ve put my plans together to basically start the junior scene from scratch again.
“This is not just for Dublin-based kids but also for anyone who can make it on the Saturdays, no matter what standard they are able to play at.
“In fact, the more beginners that can come along the better, as the professional WPBSA coaching I can offer them will help them grasp the basic skills that they need to begin enjoying this great game.
“The Academy mornings will begin at a more realistic time for parents of 12pm and finish at 2pm and the fee each Saturday will be a mere €5 – just to cover table costs.
“Every junior in attendance, no matter what their standard, will receive one-on-one professional coaching along with several other group sessions around the table.
“Practice drills, mini tournaments, and Q&A sessions will be held to answer any questions or queries the juniors – or indeed the parents – may have on the game or its rules.
“Each attendee will receive a certificate of attendance and a practice plan to take away and work on until the next session when each junior will have their game individually assessed again and their progress will be logged.
“I feel this will make the juniors feel important and determined to want to improve their skills and set them on their way.
“I am also fully Garda-Vetted and a child protection officer so parents can feel safe in the knowledge that their children are in good hands.
“My ambition for the Junior Snooker Academy mornings is to bring my snooker experience and the WPBSA coaching skills that I’ve been taught to the juniors each session and to help them realise that they too can play the game and maybe one day become a top professional player.
“The WPBSA are fully behind me and so far the encouragement I’ve received, throughout not just the Irish snooker scene but beyond, has been very encouraging.
“Ken Doherty started out exactly the same way in 1981 and just 16 years later he was raising the World Snooker Championship trophy at the Crucible Theatre.”