Lavery Retains Northern Irish Title

Lavery Retains Northern Irish Title

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.

Lavery Claims Northern Ireland Title

Lavery Claims Northern Ireland Title

A new name will be etched onto the Northern Ireland Amateur Snooker Championship trophy after Antrim’s Declan Lavery claimed the national title for the first time last weekend.

Dating back to as far as 1927, this prestigious event has been won in the past by major champions Alex Higgins and Mark Allen. Organised by the Northern Ireland Billiards and Snooker Association (NIBSA) – a member of the World Snooker Federation (WSF) – this year’s edition featured over seventy hopefuls who contested the competition across three consecutive weekends. The early rounds were played at the Minnesota Snooker Club in Ballymena and a subsequent ‘Finals Weekend’ was held for the eight remaining contestants at the 147 Snooker Club in Antrim.

Lavery began his bid with victories over Kevin McGlinchey (3-0), John Robinson (3-1) and Paul Currie (4-2) to book a berth in the quarter-finals at his home venue. Three breaks of 90 and a 59 helped him to a 5-0 last 8 win against youngster Christopher Clifford, thus setting up a clash with ex-professional and seven-time champion of this tournament, Patrick Wallace.

The 35-year-old held 4-1 and 5-3 advantages in the best-of-11-frames encounter, but seasoned campaigner Wallace struck back to force a deciding frame. However, aided by a run of 55 – his fifth half century of the tie – Lavery came through to reach the final for the first time following four semi-final defeats in the past. Waiting for him there was Darren Dornan from Drumaness, who had eliminated Raymond Fry, 6-2, in the other semi.

During the first session of the final Lavery made breaks 51 and 106 to take control, but efforts of 70 and 63 kept Dornan in touch as he trailed by just one frame at 4-5 come the end of the opening salvo. On resumption, though, Lavery wasn’t prepared to relinquish his lead as he won five of the next six frames to emerge a 10-5 victor and secure the most significant accolade of his career so far.

A former Under-16 and 19 national champion too, Lavery’s latest success means he has earned a wildcard into the professional Northern Ireland Open at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast later on in the year.

A jubilant Lavery said “I’m overjoyed to win the title. It was my real goal in snooker to win it and get my name on the trophy alongside three of my best mates (Mark Allen, Colin Bingham, Jordan Brown) and Alex Higgins. I can’t wait to play in the Northern Ireland Open at the Waterfront”.

Earlier in the week, Shea Moore defended the Under-21 championship title with a 5-3 comeback final win over Christopher Clifford.

Clifford opened a 3-0 lead in the final before Moore turned the tables with a five-frame winning streak that included a half century break in each of the last three frames.

2019 Northern Ireland Amateur Snooker Championship

Results from the quarter-finals onwards (breaks in brackets)

Patrick Wallace (60, 62) 5-3 (56, 50, 54) Stephen Brady

Christopher Clifford 0-5 (90, 90, 90, 59) Declan Lavery

Anto Heaney 4-5 Darren Dornan

Mark Jackson (50) 4-5 (57) Raymond Fry

Semi-Finals

Wallace 5-6 (73, 52, 54, 53, 55) Lavery

Dornan 6-2 Fry

Final

Lavery (50, 51, 106) 10-5 (70, 63, 58) Dornan