Declan Lavery defended the Northern Ireland Amateur Snooker Championship last weekend after a thrilling 10-9 deciding frame victory over youngster Robbie McGuigan in the final.
With a proud history dating back to as far as 1927, this is one of the world’s oldest national snooker championships. Former winners include 1972 and 1982 world champion Alex Higgins and 2018 Masters champion Mark Allen.
Organised by the Northern Ireland Billiards and Snooker Association (NIBSA) – a member of the World Snooker Federation (WSF) – the event was moved from its original date in the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic. Featuring a total of 90 competitors, it was held over three consecutive weekends at the Antrim Sports Club. Sections of the draw were completed across the opening weekends before the eight remaining cueists returned for the conclusion.
Reigning champion Lavery was a man on a mission in Antrim, dropping just one frame on his way to the final. The 36-year-old first defeated John Robinson 3-0, Paschal McKenna 3-1 and Brian Milne 4-0 to book his place at ‘Finals Weekend’. There he continued his campaign with clean sweeps of Darren Dornan 5-0 in the last eight and Stephen Brady 6-0 in the semis. In the previous round Brady had eliminated former top 16 star and two-time Crucible semi-finalist Joe Swail 5-2. Swail – runner-up in this event twice before – missed the 15th black (113) during a maximum attempt in the last 32.
Lavery’s opponent was exciting 16-year-old prospect McGuigan, who was aiming to become the youngest ever winner of this title. Already a Challenge Tour event finalist, McGuigan crafted a plethora of breaks on his way through, which featured a 5-1 quarter-final win over former professional and seven-times winner Patrick Wallace and then a gripping 6-5 pink ball triumph over Raymond Fry in the last four.
A Fantastic Final
The first four frames of the two-session final were shared with both players making a half-century. McGuigan then compiled breaks of 110 and 76 in two of the next three frames which sandwiched Lavery’s effort of 57 in frame six, but it was the latter who finished the first session stronger as he claimed the final two frames for a 5-4 lead.
On resumption, Lavery swelled his advantage, moving one away from glory at 9-5 up. However, impressive McGuigan refused to quit, stringing together four consecutive frames including back-to-back breaks of 128 and then 132 (the two highest breaks of the tournament) to force a decider.
Despite this onslaught of scoring from his rival, though, Lavery composed himself in the last frame. An initial run of 46 helped him take early control of the decider which he later converted into victory and a successful defence of the championship.
Winner Lavery said “I played great up to the final winning 18 frames in a row, followed by the opening frame of the final. Then it was about hanging on to Robbie.”
“I couldn’t believe I was 5-4 up as he played some great snooker in the first session. I took control at 9-5 and should have killed the match off but he cleared twice and then made two of the best breaks I’ve ever seen in about only ten minutes for 9-9. Robbie is already a fantastic player but he will only get better the next couple of years and I really fancy him to go to the top tier of the sport.”
“I’m really proud the way I held myself together in the decider and over the moon to retain my title. It might be hard to get the hat-trick next year, though, with Robbie being another year older!”
Tournament Director Simon Cooke added “We got to witness a great match between Declan and Robbie. Massive thanks to all those who helped out behind the scenes in order to run and showcase the tournament, the staff at Antrim Sports Club for their hospitality and Rory Mallon from RTM Mortgages who sponsored the event.”
Full results from the championship can be accessed via WPBSA SnookerScores.
Article by Michael Day.
In the final part of our round-up looking at national snooker events that have taken place over recent weeks, we travel to Turkey, Iceland, the Isle of Man, Ukraine and Wales.
Enes Bakirci won the 2020 Turkish Snooker Championship at the Bilardo Akademisi in Istanbul last month.
A total of 71 players from across the country competed in the third staging of this week-long event. The top eight seeds automatically went through to the last 32 knockout phase and were joined by qualifiers that emerged from groups at the start of the week.
Bakirci lived up to his billing as the pre-tournament favourite dropping just one frame – during his 3-1 defeat of Melih Egemen in the quarter-finals – on his way to the title. In the last four he eliminated Yilmaz Senel 4-0 and then repeated that scoreline against Serdar Istanbullu in the final. In reaching the final, Istanbullu survived two deciding frame finishes before getting the better of Kivanc Karahan 4-2 in the semi-finals.
A competitor at this year’s EBSA European Amateur Championships in Portugal, Bakirci also registered the competition’s highest break of 108.
The predominant cuesport in Turkey is currently Carom, but snooker continues to grow in the country and there are plans to hold more of these types of event each year. Players as young as 11-years-old featured in the Championship.
It was a case of third time’s a charm for Thorri Jensson when he claimed his maiden Icelandic Snooker Championship.
Runner-up in 2012 and 2016, Jensson was the first new winner of the tournament in 12 years. Held at the Billiard Barinn in Reykjavík, the top 16 players from the national rankings were invited to compete.
Jensson defeated Jonas Jonasson 5-2 and then Gunnar Hreidarsson 5-3 before a 7-3 triumph over last year’s beaten finalist Jon Ingi Ægisson in the semi-finals.
Returning the following weekend, Jensson faced Guðbjörn Gunnarsson in the final who had seen off Unnar Bragason 7-5 in the other last four tie.
Gunnarsson took the opening frame on the black and then doubled his lead, but Jensson came back and would end the first session 5-3 up. On resumption he went up a gear, crafting breaks of 88 and 63 to run out a 9-4 victor.
A winner of this competition 14 times, reigning champion Kristjan Helgason did not enter due to injury. However, earlier in the season Jensson got the better of the former professional and Crucible qualifier in another Icelandic ranking event – Helgason’s first domestic loss in the country for 10 years.
Isle of Man
Former EBSA European under-21 champion Darryl Hill regained the Isle of Man Snooker Championship – the fifth time he has captured the island’s most prestigious title.
Played throughout the domestic season, 24-year-old Hill qualified top of his group without dropping a frame. He continued that sequence with a 4-0 victory over Paul Smith in the last eight, but was taken all the way by Sean Corkish before coming through a decider in the semi-finals 4-3.
For the third year in a row Hill would clash with fellow four-time winner John Kennish in the final. Kennish stunned Hill in last year’s showpiece when he recovered from 4-0 down to win 5-4, and he booked his place in the 2020 title match when he eliminated Peter Crellin 4-1 in the other last four meeting.
However, 2016 World Snooker Tour Rookie of the Year Hill gained revenge with a 5-3 win at the Douglas Snooker Bar, finishing off with a 53 break in the last frame.
Several national junior champions have been crowned over the last few weeks.
Iulian Boiko warmed up for his upcoming professional debut by winning all his matches to claim the Ukrainian Under-21 Championship. Mykyta Rudenko came in second.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, Kiril Baidala defeated Artem Surzhykov in the final of the under-18s championship and Marharyta Lisovenko finished ahead of second placed Oleksandra Yudchits to become the under-16 girls’ champion.
In Wales, Liam Davies won the Welsh under-14, 16 and 18 championships with respective final victories over Riley Powell (3-0), Ollie Briffett Payne (3-2) and Luke James (3-2).
Davies nearly completed a unique quadruple but his bid for the under-21 accolade was ended by Dylan Emery in the final. Emery – a semi-finalist at this year’s World Snooker Federation Open in Malta – registered runs of 56 and 64 in a 3-0 success.
Our thanks to everyone that contributed to this edition.
Just like other sports, snooker’s international amateur scene came to a sudden halt earlier this year due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. However, as lockdowns and restrictions eventually eased, national competitions were deemed safe to resume in several countries.
In a two-part series rounding up the action, we focus on such events that have taken place during the European summertime.
One to look out for in the future is nine-year-old Matvei Lagodzinschii who won this year’s Moldavian National Snooker Championship and made the highest break of the event.
An emerging snooker nation, 28 players started out at the Classic Billiard Club in Chisinau for this the second edition of the tournament.
Lagodzinschii came through his opening round 3-0 before constructing impressive breaks of 81 and 52 as he dispatched Alexei Balan 3-2 in the last eight. In the semi-finals he defeated 11-year-old Vladislav Gradinari 4-2 and then dethroned defending champion Pavel Baciu 4-1 in the final.
Earlier this year Lagodzinschii won a match at the WSF Junior Open in Malta and qualified for the knockout stages of the EBSA European Under-18 Championship in Portugal. He also scored a victory in the under-21 category.
Having taken up the sport initially as a six-year-old, Lagodzinschii regularly travels to Kiev, Ukraine to play with 14-year-old newly inducted professional Iulian Boiko.
Teenager Jovan Todorovic now holds all the major accolades in Serbia after claiming the national championship there for the first time earlier this summer.
Held at the Snooker Federation of Serbia’s academy base in Belgrade, the ninth staging of the event featured the country’s top eight ranked players. 16-year-old Todorovic – who is ranked number one in both the national junior and main rankings and is the national junior champion – registered runs of 92, 71 and 67 as he eliminated Leo Vig 5-2 in the first round.
In the last four he saw off Serbia’s number two ranked junior cueist Vasilije Pesic 5-0 with efforts of 70 and 51 before a 6-1 success over four-time winner Marko Stoilkovic in the final confirmed him as the youngest ever winner of this title. In a previous round Stoilkovic made the highest break of 100.
Todorovic went on a brilliant run at the WSF Junior Open in January where he reached the quarter-finals before losing 4-2 to eventual runner-up Sean Maddocks.
It was a perfect ten for Martyn Desperques (image by Tom Videlo) as he reclaimed the Guernsey National Snooker Championship at the Gremlin Club in St. Peter Port last weekend.
During the opening two rounds – held before the coronavirus lockdown – Desperques didn’t drop a frame on his way through, making a break of 104 during his last 16 match with Colin Gilbert.
The remaining rounds were completed in recent weeks. In the quarter-finals he defeated Seb Priaulx 3-0 to set up a meeting with defending champion and long-time rival Adam Shorto. The pair have contested several finals on the island over the last two decades, including the previous three in this tournament. Desperques was triumphant in 2017 and 2018, but he avenged his loss in 2019 with a 4-2 win on this occasion to reach yet another title match.
In the final he faced two-time champion Glenn Le Provost. Despite relinquishing the opening frame, Desperques ran out a 5-2 victor to secure the trophy for a tenth time. He is now just two behind the all-time record holder Norman Wale who captured it 12 times during the 1950s and 60s.
Kate Le Gallez won the Guernsey Ladies Snooker Championship for a third consecutive year after defeating Becci Walsh 3-0 in the final.
Article by Michael Day.
Snooker enthusiasts on the Isle of Man are eagerly awaiting the opening of a new top-class facility where they will be able to play to their heart’s content.
Located in Ballasalla in the south of the island, The Cue Zone IOM will span an area of 7,500 square feet across two levels. The groundbreaking cuesports venue will house seven full-sized snooker tables and three smaller six-foot training tables, as well as American and English pool amenities. The ambitious project is the brainchild of former island professional Darryl Hill.
“My family always used to say when I was playing on the English junior tour that it would be great to have a venue of our own. We’d say it a bit tongue in cheek, although we did have a serious think about it several years ago, but when I turned pro we forgot it all and I concentrated on that.” said the 2015 EBSA European Under-21 champion.
“Now, though, with limited venues on the island, this is the right time for a facility like this to open. It is needed to get junior and new players into the sport and for our coaches to operate properly. It will also allow the island’s top players to knuckle down and prepare for major amateur events that we travel to. It will be a venue that the Isle of Man has never had before.
“Whilst we want to keep the venue social for all ages and abilities, I have veered towards a state-of-the-art academy style centre of excellence that is based on similar models I have seen before. ‘The Arena’ will hold seven snooker tables, one being the first, and only, XingPai table on the island with an enclosed seated viewing area. In total we will have four ‘competition’ tables with steel block cushions, while the other three will be for all abilities to enjoy.
“I am working with the chairman of our association – who is also the island’s head coach – and he has agreed for us to house the association’s small training tables where we can hold junior coaching but still take them to schools for sessions too.
“The Cue Zone IOM will also feature an American Pool table, its own ‘Pool Lounge’ that has four smaller English Pool tables and a separate lounge/dining area with a TV where we will serve hot and cold drinks and meals.”
Problems Overcome and a Bright Future Ahead
Hill’s vision was put on hold in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but with restrictions lifted over the last few weeks, he is hoping that the ribbon will soon be cut.
“The pandemic hit us at the wrong time. We planned a launch night on Good Friday (10th April) and we had Stuart Bingham – who I got friendly with when I was on the pro tour – to officially open it. Sadly, when we went into lockdown we had to down tools with jobs left to complete, although things have opened up again here and we have been able to get back to it. Some equipment is still on the mainland and with the situation there different it is proving difficult to get it across.
“We are anticipating opening in July, however I will only do it when everything is right. Stuart is still on hand to attend an evening here in the future when the situation allows him to.
“My family and I have received a lot of support from key individuals and skilled workpeople. The building was not in great condition originally and it has taken a mammoth team effort to make it the venue it is now. We are very grateful for everyone’s help – thank you!”
The Manxman is positive about the prospects of snooker on the Isle of Man and believes the new venue will have a big impact on hosting new, exciting events for all.
“This will hopefully generate further interest in the sport here – bringing in new players and enticing former ones back. Now we have the capacity under one roof, we can run competitions and hopefully re-establish international friendlies and challenge matches that we used to run in the 1980’s. I have already had positive talks with Northern and the Republic of Ireland about these. Now we have top quality tables in almost perfect condition, it feels like the possibilities are endless for Isle of Man cuesports.”
Main Tour Return
In terms of his own playing career, 24-year-old Hill is upbeat about the future and getting back into the big time after a frustrating end to his maiden stint as a professional.
“When I turned pro after winning the European Under-21s in 2015 I hit the ground running in the first season, reaching number 75 in the world and winning the Rookie of the Year award.
“Unfortunately, my second season was hit with major health problems as I developed Ulcerative Colitis which along with Crohn’s Disease is Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Because of many hospital visits and procedures, I wasn’t playing or willing to travel much, and by the end of my second year I had lost a lot of love for the game and wasn’t fussed about returning to the tour.
“After some time out my condition settled, and I got on top of it. I was told it could take five years to sort but I seem to have sorted myself after 18 months to two years. I’ve now started playing in big amateur events again including the World Snooker Federation Open in Malta in January. I’ve really enjoyed going back and seeing everyone involved with the organisation of them.
“I haven’t performed well enough for what I was hoping, but I do feel that moving my table in the club and finally being in a proper environment that I’ve always wanted will give me a push and enable me to get back challenging in the latter stages of big events.
“Maybe there will be a return to the tour, but one thing I would love this new venue to do is encourage those players that are capable of performing well in international events to travel to them. We can then go to these together and cheer each other on. The Isle of Man has achieved strong results in team events before and we’d like to do that more often in the future, so I rather think the venue will also be a second wind for me as well!”
Australia’s Cale Barrett will be offered a coveted two-year World Snooker Tour card following his triumph in the 2020 Oceania Snooker Championship at the Mounties Club in Sydney.
Organised by the Oceania Billiards and Snooker Federation, a total of 60 players competed for the continental title with representation from the host nation, New Zealand and Fiji.
Tasmanian cueist Barrett began his campaign by easing through to the knockout phase of the competition after qualifying top of his group with four wins from four. However, he found himself in trouble during the last 32 when he trailed Paul Thomerson by a couple of frames before constructing breaks of 76 and 62 to turn it around and progress 3-2. More routine victories arrived over Ron Tulloch (4-0) and Rob Elsey (4-1), then the 23-year-old overcame experienced former winner Joe Minici 5-3 in the semi-finals.
Barrett’s opponent in the final was fellow countryman Shaun Dalitz, who had ended the hopes of recent World Snooker Federation Open quarter-finalist and Challenge Tour regular Ryan Thomerson in the last four.
A keen trophy contest was expected but didn’t materialise. Barrett dominated early on; a run of 54 helped him take the opener before he claimed the next four frames to lead 5-0 – just one away from the title. To his credit Dalitz avoided the whitewash, but Barrett completed the task in frame seven with the aid of a 60 break to confirm a 6-1 scoreline and secure the prestigious championship for the first time. He joins a list of former winners that includes Neil Robertson.
Hassan Kerde – eliminated by Dalitz in the last eight – constructed the highest break of the tournament with a 120 during the groups stage.
2020 Oceania Snooker Championship – results from the quarter-finals
Roger Farebrother 3-4 Ryan Thomerson
Shaun Dalitz 4-2 Hassan Kerde
Cale Barrett 4-1 Rob Elsey
Tyson Crinis 2-4 Joe Minici
Thomerson 3-5 Dalitz
Barrett 5-3 Minici
Dalitz 1-6 Barrett
Continental Accolades for Dunham, Turner and Cullen
Preceding the main event at the same venue, recent professional player Kurt Dunham won the Oceania 6-Red Championship for a third year in a row.
The Melbourne ace emerged through the pack, defeating former world number 18 Dene O’Kane from New Zealand 5-3 in the final. The successful title defence means that Dunham will return to the SangSom 6-Red World Championship in Thailand later this year as the Oceania representative.
Earlier in the month at the Tauranga Citizens Club in New Zealand, the Oceania Under-21 and Women’s Championships were held.
Cody Turner (NZ) got the better of Marc Fridman (Australia) 6-1 in the final to win the under-21 title, while Kimberley Cullen overcame fellow Kiwi Nita Clarkson 3-0 to conclude the women’s event.
Former world number eight Darren Morgan defeated Gavin Lewis 7-2 to win the 2019 Welsh Amateur Snooker Championship earlier this month.
The most prestigious tournament on the Welsh Billiards and Snooker Association circuit was first contested in 1928 and boasts big name previous winners such as Ray Reardon, Doug Mountjoy, Terry Griffiths, Dominic Dale, Ryan Day and Michael White. Winner of the title for the first time in 1987 and then more recently, after coming off the sport’s top tier, in 2015, this was the third time that 53-year-old Morgan has claimed the accolade.
Played across the domestic season, the competition is initially split into north and south regional qualifying. Morgan began his campaign with victories over Stephen Ellis (4-0 – 103 break), Andrew Pagett (4-1) and Matthew Farrant (4-3) before receiving a walkover in the quarter-finals against defending champion Jackson Page who withdrew in order to focus on World Championship qualifying.
The final four players congregated at The Royal Hotel in Rhymney earlier this month where the championship was played to a conclusion. Morgan chalked up the last three frames to defeat Richard King, 6-3, whilst in the second session, another experienced cueist, Gavin Lewis, ended youngster Tyler Rees’ hopes with a 6-4 win. It would be Lewis’ second final appearance, 16 years on from his runner-up finish in 2003.
Both players returned the following day for the multi-session final. Morgan started stronger establishing a 4-0 mid-session lead after taking frames three and four on the black and pink respectively. Lewis managed to get on the board with the next, but the two-time ranking event finalist responded with a break of 128 and then by potting a terrific, decisive long-range final black to finish the session 6-1 in front.
That evening Lewis briefly threatened a comeback when he deposited a tight frame eight, but Morgan made sure there would be no recovery with an effort of 50 in the ninth and clearing from green to pink in the tenth to record a 7-2 victory.
A former world semi-finalist during his 18 years as a professional, since coming off the tour by choice in 2006 Morgan has focused on amateur events, winning several other significant titles such as the 2011 World Seniors Championship. Last year in Malta Morgan also reached the final of the inaugural World Snooker Federation Seniors Championship.