How many titles has Patrick Wallace won over the last quarter of a century in the East Tyrone League? It’s very doubtful if even the great man himself could accurately guess - but it’s very likely that the number will increase is the net few weeks.
Wallace, a former professional and one-time quarter finalist in what was then the Embassy World Championship, will play next week in three finals but two of them are games in which success will not solely be in his own hands for the hat-trick of decider appearances are in an individual, a doubles and a team competition.
And he will be endeavouring to bring home some silverware because, even though he’s now in his mid-40s, he is arguably playing better snooker than he had ever done.
And, if you question that, then just read on to see what he managed to achieve last Tuesday night on the way to booking his place in the Division One final and the Open Championship decider - and he was playing against two opponents who know his game well, are experienced performers themselves and were in receipt of pretty decent handicap starts!
First up at the Pot Black club was the open semi-final, the challenger being Moneymore-based Portgenone man Paul Currie in a best of five frames match, with the Mitchells A player receiving a start of 21 points per frame.
And it finished in a 3-1 victory for the Dungannon cueman after a high-quality display - even by his own massively high standards.
Wallace had a superb 102c in the first frame and followed up with a great 86 in second. He only managed a 43 break in third, Currie giving himself a glimmer of hope as he won it on the pink. But the Burn Road visitor probably felt he was living on borrowed time and so it proved as Wallace clinched his win with 59 and 49 in fourth.
Next it was the turn of Frank Loughran who asked the league’s top star to play over the extended distance instead of the scheduled best of three frames format in the Division One tournament. To the outsider that would perhaps have appeared like asking for trouble as the underdog in any match would have a better chance over a sprint distance. But Loughran, a connoisseur of the sport, would have relished taking on such a lauded opponent in matchplay.
Given the form he was in, it will have been no surprise that he obliged and the former St.Patrick’s man duly won 3-0 - with a couple of centuries thrown in for good measure. Wallace had a best of night 123 in first - remarkably without potting a single black, had a 51 in the second and he rounded off a memorable night’s work with a splendid 119 clearance!
However, Wallace will be under no illusion as to the task which now confronts him for Ciaran Kelly is also playing superbly, as evidenced by his two magnificent wins on Thursday night - he beat Stevie McParland 2-0 to reach the Division One final and will also play in the open after a superb black ball win over Brian Milne - who had won the first two frames.
There will be no three-in-a-row title triumph for Wallace and Dermot Loughran inthe doubles. Winners over Sean Nash-Peter Loughran in 2011 and John Hagan-Stevie Campbell last year, the ex-St.Patrick’s duo were beaten 2-0 in the semi-final on Wednesday night by their Pot Black team-mates Mickey Quinn and Peter Reilly, with a clinching 41 break by Quinn.
The Division Two final will be between Terry Dunlop, the backbone of the Mitchells INF team and Cookstown clubmate Peter Loughran, a straight frames winner over McKees man James Conway.
From even before a ball was hit, it would have been a shock if the Division Three title would have ended up anywhere other than the McKees club and by the time the zones were over, it was confirmed as all the semi-finalists were from the league champions team, now it’s down to just two and it will go to either Brendan Morgan or Oliver O’Neill.
The seniors handicap crown is heading for either Gervins or Mitchells, Anthony McGuckin meeting Ryan Starkey in that decider.
The seniors doubles final is a revenge mission for Owen McKee and Colm Kelly, the McKees team who were beaten in the Knockout Cup semi-final by McVeighs A - aka John McArdle and Danny McVeigh.
Thursday night sees the final of the traditional glamour event, Knockout Cup, Pot Black facing novel opposition in the useful McKees B, who surprised the first division pals on A team in the semi-final. Most folk will fancy the Cookstown men, but it would be churlish to dismiss the very determined Gortgonis team.
The big open final rounds off the season on presentation night, Friday May 2, Wallace to meet Ciaran Kelly in best of five.