Only a most unlikely whitewash defeat for second-placed Max Keady A can prevent the south Armagh men putting their League Cup title on the line in a repeat of last year’s final, albeit with the opponents in their new guise as Pot Black.
The former St.Patricks A team (with former Gervins No.1 Mickey Quinn now aboard) predictably booked their place in the decider of the early season test in the H2 Engineering ETSL with a match to play when they saw off the doughty challenge of Mitchells A at Burn Road, while the holders got their match game in full stride with a chunky 4-0 despatch of Gervins A.
That whitewash disguises the true picture of a match which was far from easy for the hosts, only Mark Nugent’s sparkling performance in game one not requiring a deciding frame, breaks of 34 and 25 seeing him beat Ciaran Kelly with a red left on the table each time.
Stevie McParland’s break of 60 was marginally too good for Philip Gervin’s 33 in their opening frame, a 29 giving the visitor the second before McParland took the last before they reached the colours.
Barry Hughes easily won the opener against Darren Gribben but a pink ball win forced the issue to a shoot-out frame and once more the host club representative snatched the win on the pink, the same story emerging as Sean Hoey beat Iggy Cullen, two pink ball wins from the Max player sandwiching a blue ball victory for Cullen.
A point is thus the target for Joe Shortt’s men as they head to Ardcumber Road on Thursday night, a whitewash defeat meaning they will lose out to Mitchells.
Pot Black will definitely play in the final after their 3-1 win in the Cookstown derby.
Patrick Wallace and David McClements renewed a rivalry that goes back to the 1985 ETSL U16 League, and their first meeting in around two decades was just as competitive back then. Wallace opened up with 40 and added a 70 clearance. McClements responded with some superb potting in the second to win with two reds left. But an early 36 laid Wallace’s foundations in the decider and a 34 clinched the victory.
Philip Tener won the Mitchells point after two scrappy frames against Paul McGuckin, who potted the first four colours in the opener only to leave the pink on, Tener taking the second on brown.
Dermot Loughran had Paul Currie at the snookers required stage with two reds left in the first, thanks to a mid-frame 32. Their second frame ended strangely, Loughran with a brilliant yellow to pink break, the players shaking hands thinking it was over - only for the referee to point out that he was only seven in front. Unflustered, he returned to complete his clearance with in a great long black.
Mickey Quinn produced a dominant performance against Feargal Keenan, outscoring the Kildress man 177-27 with a first frame 38 clearance followed by a 43.
That’s four wins on the spin for Pot Black team-mates Quinn and Wallace.
McKees A slammed the door shot on McVeighs A’s slender hopes of getting into the mix for a place in the decider when the Gortgonis men bagged their first win of the campaign, 3-1 the result.
Ronan Fay stormed to a fine win with a very convincing straight frames defeat of Jerome McVeigh, John Hagan on the winner’s rostrum for the first time in four attempts when he compiled a 42 break to get home on the black in the first frame against Conor Gillespie. Remarkably the subsequent two frames both ended at 68-56, Hagan deservedly taking the decider.
And Colm Kelly also ended his barren run, using all his experience and skill to edge out young Fergal Quinn in a thrilling two-framer, winning a highscoring first on the black and then producing a great full colours clearance to clinch it.
Kieran Corr averted the dreaded whitewash when he outpointed Stevie Campbell in a game in which none of the three frames were particularly close.
TOP TEAMS DRAW
It was honours even in the big match in Division Two, leaders McKees B playing a worthy draw with defending champions Max Keady B at the well-appointed Gortgonis venue.
Martin Doris suffered his first defeat at the hands of unbeaten Louie McGale in a terrific match, McGale snatching the opener on the black by two points, Doris returning the compliment by a solitary point to set up an enthralling tactical decider won by McGale on the pink by 41-31.
James Conway returned to form and squared the match with a splendid rapid-fire win over John Maguire, the first frame over on the blue and the second with a red remaining.
Try as he might, Colm Doris hasn’t fired on all cylinders yet this season and he suffered another straight frames defeat. But there was little he could do against the in-form Paul McParland who made a break of 37 in the opener and took the second 70-50 thanks to a break of 45.
Shane Coney impressively overcame Charlie Connelly to share the overall booty, a red left as he passed the first winning line and a 31 break securing the second 78-46.
Gervins B, who defeated the champions seven days earlier, must have felt sure they would capitalise on the clash of the top two, but there was double disappointment in store in Killyman.
No only did they surprisingly slump to a 3-1 defeat, but they also incurred the first fine imposed this season – for the no-show by Christopher Maye, the walk-over for Dwayne Mallon gifting the match decider to McVeighs B.
Danny McVeigh’s first point this campaign gave the host team a tremendous start, winning the first against valiant Joe Gervin on the pink and the second on a re-spotted black.
Something had to give in the clash of John McArdle and Mal O’Neill, both starting the night with a ha-trick of wins under their belts. O’Neill easily won the first, McArdle leveled in a tight finish and O’Neill held his nerve well to win a cracking decider.
Mickey Donnelly lost his first frame to Shane Coney, but battled back well to complete back-to-back wins after losing on his first two outings, with Mallon’s walkover a sad end to a fine match.
Peter Loughran is back to the sort of form which won him the Division Two individual title a couple of years back, his fourth successive victory, over the redoubtable Francie Mallon, inspiring Mitchells B to a 3-1 win over Max Keady C – in spite of a fine 37 break which won the second frame for Mallon.
Kevin Kelly seemed in trouble after losing the debut frame to a 22 break from Barry Leeson but another 22 wasn’t enough for the Keady man in the second as Kelly grasped it on the final colour and went on to take the decider 50-23.
The other Cookstown point was won by another former St.Patricks B player, Jonny McCann coasting to a 2-0 win over Jody Shortt, who has yet to show his true ability this season.
The Keady point winner was John O’Reilly, an easy winner over the struggling Sean Nash.
Gervins C and McKees C started off the night with identical records of two 3-1 defeats and a draw and they ended it the same way after sharing the spoils at Plater’s Hill.
Shea Fee is one of only five players still with a 100 per cent record in four outings, the promising young Coalisland star opening with a couple of 20 breaks but working hard for his deciding frame verdict over Raymond McKee who cleared from the brown to win frame two.
Dan Nixon was the other home victor, winning 2-0 against Ali O’Neill, Brendan Morgan producing clearances of 22 and 18 to see off the stiff challenge from Jason O’Neill, while Paddy McKillion fought back heroically after losing his opener. A black ball win was followed by a decisive 30 break to leave luckless Ronan Wilson a split frames loser for the fourth week in a row.
Pot Black 16 12
Max Keady A 16 11
Mitchells A 16 7
Gervins A 16 6
McKees A 16 6
McVeighs A 16 6
McKees B 16 11
Max Keady B 16 10
Mitchells B 16 10
Gervins B 16 9
McVeighs B 16 9
Gervins C 16 6
McKees C 16 6
Max Keady C 16 3
Fixtures for Thursday November 29
McVeighs A v Pot Black
Mitchells A v Max Keady A
Gervins A v McKees A
Gervins B v McKees B
McKees C v McVeighs B
Max Keady B v Mitchells B
Max Keady C v Gervins C
SUPPLIES YOUTH LEAGUES
Gervins made a great start when they collected all five points on their visit to Cookstown in the only match which involved teams from different clubs. Dan Nixon, currently playing in the senior league, dovetailed with Philip Gervin as the visitors showed a clean pair of heels to the home side. But Sean Bennett only lost on the black to Gervin, while he and Thomas McGuigan battled hard in the scotch doubles right to the last couple of colours.
The big Max clash went the way of the B team - who would seem the higher ranked cueists. 2-0 up through Rian Hoey and James Toner, who beat Frank Mallon on the black, before Mallon beat Hoey on the pink as Toner got the nod over Ryan Gray. The new scotch doubles format, alternate shots, gave the players problems as Hoey and Toner won on the black for a 4-1 win.
A close contest at McKees saw the B team emerge masters. Captain Luke Campbell led by example, defeating James Kelly and James Hagan, with Ryan Quinn beating Hagan. Kelly halted the slide for the A team, who finished off stronger by winning the doubles.
Max Keady, who have never failed to win the title at this grade, are hot orders to retain the crown – but it looks likely to be via their B team of Patrick Swift and Paudie Mallon, who were last season’s doubles champions and opened the campaign with a 5-0 win over their B team. Swift beat Mark Gray on the pink, Mallon put on the best show of the night to beat Caomhin Rafferty and then outpointed Gray, Swift with a good finish against Rafferty and the win was completed.
The doubles proved decisive as Gervins B triumphed against their A team in a tight match. Ryan Morrow took advantage of some bad luck for Ronan Wilson who forfeited 20 in fouls, Shea Fee levelling for the A team by eclipsing Sean Day, who then won as Wilson’s misery continued when he went in off the pink. Fee won a quality encounter with Morrow, both registering breaks in the teens, before Day and Morrow struck up a great partnership on the colours to secure the 3-2 verdict.
Mitchells 0 Gervins 5
Sean Bennett 49 Philip Gervin 50
Thomas McGuigan 19 Dan Nixon 51
Thomas McGuigan 39 Philip Gervin 61
Sean Bennett 12Dan Nixon 75
Bennett-McGuigan 39 Nixon-Gervin 49
Max Keady A 1 Max Keady B 4
Frank Mallon 24 James Toner 34
Ryan Gray 16 Rian Hoey 47
Frank Mallon 49 Rian Hoey 34
Ryan Gray 29 James Toner 59
Mallon-Gray 30 Hoey-Toner 39
McKees A 2 McKees B 3
James Kelly 35 Luke Campbell 48
James Hagan 22 Ryan Quinn 54
James Kelly 57 Ryan Quinn 39
James Hagan 29 Luke Campbell 58
Kelly-Hagan 50 Campbell-Quinn 33
Max Keady A 0 Max Keady B 5
Mark Gray 18 Patrick Swift 34
Caomhin Rafferty 19 Paudie Mallon 62
Caomhin Rafferty 19 Patrick Swift 54
Mark Gray 28 Paudie Mallon 58
Gray-Rafferty 14 Swift-Mallon 40
Gervins A 2 Gervins B 3
Ronan Wilson 22 Ryan Morrow 45
Shea Fee 57 Sean Day 45
Shea Fee 49 Ryan Morrow 40
Ronan Wilson 22 Sean Day 34
Fee-Wilson 33 Day-Morrow 55
McKees A v Max Keady B
Max Keady A v Mitchells
Gervins v McKees B
Max Keady B v Gervins A
Mitchells v Max Keady A
Bye - Gervins B