After each big tournament this season we’ll be reflecting on the latest action, so let’s take a look at a few things learned after the Northern Ireland Open.
Trump Leading the Changing of the Guard
Judd Trump’s superb 9-7 victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan on Sunday brought a memorable 12-month span for the 30 year-old to an appropriately symmetrical conclusion.
In 2018, Trump beat O’Sullivan by the same margin and after the Northern Ireland Open last year he also thrashed his illustrious rival in the Masters title decider at the Ally Pally – a venue that O’Sullivan has made his own in recent years.
That’s three successive finals that Trump has downed the “Rocket” in and there’s no questioning the fact that the younger of the pair represents the world’s best at present.
Trump and O’Sullivan are first and second in the rankings respectively and there isn’t much to separate them on the baize generally.
But Trump’s recent victories over the 43 year-old, combined with a maiden world crown at the Crucible, have apparently given him the edge.
It isn’t only O’Sullivan who the Bristol potter has gathered momentum against, with another all-time legend in John Higgins feeling the regular pain of defeat too.
Higgins had beaten Trump four times on the trot ahead of their World Championship final in May.
However, the Scot got absolutely thumped in Sheffield and has lost to Trump in the semi-finals of both of the last two ranking events.
In each of those tournaments Trump proceeded to etch his name onto the trophy, and it’s starting to feel as though the ever-inevitable changing of the guard could well be in motion.
More Hendry Records Under Threat
It was once assumed that the majority of Stephen Hendry’s array of records would stand forever.
Yet, with the influx of more tournaments and a standard of play that is rising, an increasing number of those records are in danger.
Hendry’s all-time ranking event tally of 36 remains on a par with O’Sullivan for the time being after the latter fell short of eclipsing the stat on this occasion.
Trump’s success, though, means that after the Northern Ireland Open he has accumulated three ranking titles already this season.
That’s the most for a world champion in the season following a maiden triumph at the Crucible since Hendry managed an incredible five during the 1990/91 campaign.
With more than half of this term still to go, a dominant Trump could potentially have that number in his sights.
Five ranking wins is also the joint-equal record for a single season – shared by Hendry, Ding Junhui, Mark Selby, and O’Sullivan – so Trump is well on course to challenge that figure to boot.
Additionally, Trump is chasing Neil Robertson’s total of 103 century breaks that the Australian famously constructed in just one season half a dozen years ago.
Trump has compiled a staggering 45 tons since the summer already, almost double the total of his nearest challengers this campaign.
Hard not to be hugely impressed by what @judd147t is doing at the moment…
✅ Back-to-back ranking event wins
✅ NI title defended
✅ First player to win three ranking titles in season after first WC since 1990
✅ £412,000 to his name on the one-year list already this season
— Matt (@ProSnookerBlog) November 17, 2019
Does anyone really pay any notice to the £1 million Home Nations bonus any more?
In what is the series’ fourth year on the calendar, Mark Selby came the closest yet with the Leicester man following up his English Open glory with a run to the last eight at the Waterfront Hall.
Selby is probably the most ideal player to be giving the ludicrous challenge a crack, as the 36 year-old gives absolutely 100% in every game that he contests.
Even so, the three-time world champion couldn’t even get to the halfway point of the 28 victories required to unlock the jackpot.
Nobody is ever going to achieve it so it really is a waste of time and it’s clear the media isn’t behind the cause any more either because there was hardly any promotion for it this year.
An alternative could be to provide a much smaller sum of money as a bonus for the player who performs the best across all four Home Nations tournaments.
The Home Nations series has been a terrific addition to the calendar overall but, much like the £1 million bonus on offer for the tour making a collective 20 maximum breaks in a season, this offering is nothing more than a spoof.