Generous sponsorship backing from H2 Engineering was the cue for the perfect combination of the old and the new as the local league entered a landmark 30th year since the snooker revival back in 1983 last Thursday night.
Embracing the return of some of the top players of old – 1960s great Ignatius Cullen and prolific 1980s and 90s champion David McClements as well as the arrival of stars of the future, including one youngster playing in Division One who is not yet even a teenager, the ever-present Patrick Wallace served warning on the opening night that he is still the best of them all.
Indeed, so awesome was his display that he achieved something which is rare, possibly even unique, in the local game because he received a standing ovation from all four teams and the appreciative spectators at the Max Club in Keady at the end of each frame in his commanding 2-0 win over Gerry Deveney.
The match comment on the scoresheet was simple and said it all: ‘Brilliant Performance’.
Deveney was first to score in the opening frame, nineteen points adding to the vastly-experienced scratch player’s handicap start of 21, but he didn’t get another shot as Wallace cleared the table with a 91.
And the home players just potted one red in the second frame, Wallace compiling breaks of 65 and 41 for a winning start to life as a Pot Black player, the league champions formerly known as St.Patrick’s A now playing out of the Cookstown club following the very regrettable decision by the parish finance committee to choose to close the Union Place premises which had served the Dungannon community so well for one hundred and six years.
But, superb as Wallace was, it wasn’t a winning return to league action for the Burn Road club, Max winning two of the other three matches in the first round of the League Cup which is exclusive to Division One teams this season.
Dermot Loughran won the second frame 57-38 on the blue against Stevie McParland, the home player easing home in the opener and also in the decider, thanks to breaks of 57 and 38.
Incredibly, it was a carbon-copy tale for Paddy Quinn, with Barry Hughes taking the first with a red left, losing the next 57-37 on the blue and firing a 44 to clinch the decider with more than a bit to spare.
Mark Nugent had breaks of 28 and 31 to win his first frame against Mickey Quinn, but lost the second on the pink despite a fine 38, before being outplayed in the decider by the former Gervins anchor-man who swept to an 80 points win.
Ignatius Cullen may be at the veteran stage of his career now but his display in his first game back clearly demonstrated that he has not lost his touch by any means, the man who reached the semi-finals of the Northern Ireland Championship way back in the mid-60s, beating occasional practice partner Conor Gillespie 2-0 as Gervins A began their group stage with a 3-1 win at home to McVeighs A.
But there was no fairytale start for twelve year old Fergal Quinn. It was a tall order for the lad, though, drawing Ciaran Kelly and receiving just a 28 start. The first frame was very close, Kelly winning by 17 but a 60 break quickly secured his 2-0 win.
Quinn’s father, Seamus, was also on the receiving end of a straight frames result, Darren Gribben with a 53 break on the way to a comfortable success.
Kieran Corr won the Killyman point with pink and yellow frame wins over Philip Gervin.
Mitchells A share top spot in the table thanks to a 3-1 victory at home to McKees A.
Davy McClements showed that he still possess plenty of confidence and determination as well as ability, hitting back from a first frame loss against Colm Kelly to easily win the next two, his win climaxed by a 42 break.
Philip Tener was the top act at the Ardcumber Road venue, undaunted by losing the first frame despite a 44 break and bouncing back with runs of 33 and 37 to defeat former Gervins man Ronan Fay.
Feargal Keenan knocked in a 44 in his first frame as well, John Hagan convincingly squaring the game before Keenan upped his game in the decider to win it 70-19.
But the Gortgonis men didn’t leave empty-handed as Stevie Campbell pounced with a splendid 27 clearance to wrap up a 2-0 win on the black after winning the opener against Paul Currie by 75-14.
Max Keady B issued a hands-off notice to all-comers, showing their intention to hang on to the Division Two league title, winning the derby game against Max C by a whopping 4-0 – for the loss of just a solitary frame.
Two of their most impressive players from last season collided in the game which went the distance, Darren Corvan with a 25 break as he won the decider on the blue against Barry Leeson, who had taken the first frame on the pink but lost the second on the green.
Paul McParland, who was a leading performer in their A team last season, is now a key component of the B team and he got off to a good start by winning a respot black first day against Jody Shortt and added the second on the pink.
John Maguire, another player who has dropped down a division, won both frames on the blue against John O’Reilly, while Charlie made a 39 break in the second when beating Kevin in the battle of the Connolly brothers after taking the first on the black.
Gervins B were 3-1 winners against Gervins C, Chris Maye much too strong for Pearse Kelly, Malachy O’Neill and Shane Dillon each requiring third frames to get the better of gutsy youngsters Ronan Wilson and Daniel Nixon, while the etnterprising Sean Fee responded in kind to deservedly win the point for the valiant underdogs at the expense of Joe Gervin who had snatched the second frame on the black.
And in the other derby clash McKees B outpointed their C team 3-1. Martin Doris defeated Raymond McKee 2-1, Shane Coney including a 37 break in his win over Brendan Morgan and James Conway beating Paddy McKillion 2-0 before Colm Doris, despite a 40 break, failed to complete the clean sweep when beaten by Ali O’Neill on the black in frame two.
Mitchells B went close to whitewashing McVeighs B. Sean Nash fended off a doughty challenge from Niall Mallon in a black ball decider, Jonny McCurry won the opener on the black in a 2-0 dismissal of Michael Donnelly, left-hander Peter Loughran receovered from a poor start to overcome Danny McVeigh and it was left to John McArdle to scoop the first league point of the campaign at the expense of Liam Hughes.
FIXTURES FOR THURSDAY NOVEMBER 8
Max Keady A v Pot Black
McVeighs A v Mitchells A
Pot Black v Gervins A
Gervins C v Gervins B
McVeighs B v Mitchells B
Max Keady C v Max Keady B
McKees C v McKees B