No sooner has the ticker-tape settled on Ronnie O’Sullivan’s dramatic win over Kyren Wilson in the Champion of Champions, than the World Snooker main tour continues with the Northern Ireland Open.
This event is the second in the four event Home Nations series, the first of which, the English Open, was won by Stuart Bingham. If Stuart can win in Belfast he will be half way to the one million pound bonus on offer to anyone who wins all four. A tough ask indeed!
But at SnookerHub I am of course more interested in the amateurs that will be taking part.
The amateurs taking part
A total of seven amateurs are in the line up, five courtesy of their place in the Q School Order of Merit, and two nominations from the Northern Ireland Billiards and Snooker Association (NIBSA). NIBSA are the governing body for snooker and billiards in Northern Ireland.
Patrick Wallace and Raymond Fry are the NIBSA nominations and the other five are Adam Duffy, Farakh Ajaib, David Lilley, Luke Simmonds and James Cahill.
Raymond Fry’s match against Luca Brecel is scheduled for the Eurosport Player and Quest at 7pm this evening and Luke Simmonds is scheduled for 7pm tomorrow evening for his match against local lad and professional, Joe Swail.
Another professional playing “at home” as it were, is Mark Allen who is scheduled for the TV this afternoon at 2pm. Allen was looking like the player to beat in the Champion of Champions until he came up against Kyren Wilson in the semi-finals who did just that in the deciding frame.
Some of the other professionals, in particular Jack Lisowski, will be following results very closely for their effect on the invites to the Masters at Alexandra Palace in January.
The battle here for the Alex Higgins trophy, won last year by Mark Williams, will hopefully produce some of the drama we saw last week at the Champion of Champions and best of luck to all the amateurs involved.
Quite a few shocks on Day 1
Home favourite Mark Allen certainly wasn’t looking like his usual self and bowed out 4-2 to Niu Zhuang of China. Barry Hawkins, Graeme Dott, John Higgins, Stephen Maguire, Anthony McGill and holder Stuart Bingham were all casualties.
Kyren Wilson also fell by the wayside but fresh from his exploits in Coventry last week, maybe he can be excused.
Ronnie O’Sullivan has been outspoken again in with his criticism of World Snooker. Maybe a tad harsh but I do think Kyren Wilson could have been given a little more time to rest between events.
Of the amateurs, Raymond Fry couldn’t match Luca Brecel and went out 4-1 to the Belgian. Adam Duffy lost 4-0 to Sam Cragie. I saw these two play in the EBSA play offs a few years ago and Cragie ran out the winner then to earn his tour card.
It may have felt like a bit of a blast from the past when Farakh Ajaib took on Ian Burns. These two played for different teams from the Elite Snooker Club in Lostock Hall before Ian Burns turned pro. Burns kicked off the match with a century and ran out the winner 4-1.
The rest of the amateurs are in action today at various points. Luke Simmonds v Joe Swail is on Eurosport at about 7.
David Lilley flies the flag for the amateurs – again!
Once again David Lilley, who gained entry to this event courtesy of his top place ranking in the Q School Order of Merit, has beaten a professional opponent and is now in the second round. He beat Welshman Duane Jones 4-2 and now faces Scott Donaldson of Scotland.
Luke Simmonds couldn’t emulate Lilley though and went out 4-1 to Joe Swail.
James Cahill lost by the same scoreline to Jimmy Robertson who missed the yellow on the way to a maximum.
Patrick Wallace was beaten 4-0 by Peter Ebdon.
A couple more big names went out yesterday including Marco Fu and Shaun Murphy. Murphy was beaten by Sam Baird – again!
Other top names were having it much easier it seems.
Ronnie O’Sullivan was in fabulous form, despite him saying otherwise after. He beat Soheil Vahedi 4-0 in less than 45 minutes, kicking off with a break of 86 and followed up with three centuries!
Mark Selby beat Anthony Hamilton 4-1 and Judd Trump overcame Matthew Selt 4-2.
Today sees the second round played out and I reckon anyone making any predictions is a braver man than me!
Lilley bows out
The last amateur man standing, David Lilley, was beaten in Round 2 by Scott Donaldson. Lilley will now go and prepare for the next Challenge Tour event in Hungary a week on Saturday. He is currently in 6th place in the Rankings but with 3 events to go he still has every chance of claiming one of the top two places and a tour card with it.
In the pro ranks, current world champion Mark Williams was another casualty of the best of 7 format, losing 4-3 to Ali Carter after leading 3-1.
Mark Selby had no similar problems though and quickly dispatched Jimmy Robertson with a 4-0 win that included runs of 128, 127 and 90. He now faces Pakistan’s only professional, Hamza Akbar who overcame Alexander Ursenbacher 4-3. That match is scheduled for streaming at 1pm.
Performance of the day for me goes to Hammad Miah who, in a 4-0 win over Niu Zhuang, started off the match with his highest professional tournament break of 142.
Judd Trump was in scintillating form beating Stuart Carrington 4-0 and Jack Lisowski survived a scare in edging past Liam Highfield 4-3. The two friends now face each other and their match is scheduled for streaming at 2:30pm.
Plenty of action to look forward to today with rounds 3 and 4 to be completed.
Busy day as Rounds 3 and 4 are completed
We are now down to the business end following a hectic day of snooker taking us from 32 to 8.
Biggest surprise of the day was Neil Robertson crashing out 4-0 to Li Hang.
Judd Trump whitewashed Jack Lisowski as did Ronnie O’Sullivan to Tom Ford and Mark Selby to Hamza Akbar.
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh went through to the quarter finals with two 4-0 wins and he made the highest break so far with a 145.
Home favourite Joe Swail went out to Eden Sharav who then went on to beat Ali Carter to reach his first ever ranking quarter final.
We are in for another snooker treat today and thank goodness for Eurosport!
Garden of Eden? (Terrible I know, but one that Phil Yates might be proud of!)
But seriously, all credit to Eden Sharav who will now face Judd Trump in his first event ranking tournament semi-final. Sharav came back from 4-1 down to beat Peter Ebdon 5-4 and claim the semi-final berth. Many will be rooting for Sharav as the underdog, but I really can’t see Trump tripping up here.
In the other semi-final it’s the clash of the Titans – Ronnie O’Sullivan will face Mark Selby. What a match in store here I feel. I’m going to go out on a limb that I don’t normally go out on and say I think Selby will win this one. The way he’s been playing he simply won’t give O’Sullivan enough chances. Not that he needs a lot!
What a match!
The semi-final produced a fantastic match between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby. Down to a decider and with twists and turns leading to the match finishing with the very last ball! O’Sullivan ran out the winner with Selby no doubt feeling hard done by.
— Ronnie O'Sullivan (@ronnieo147) November 17, 2018
— Mark Selby (@markjesterselby) November 17, 2018
In the other semi Eden Sharav couldn’t quite produce the heroics of the last couple of rounds and Judd Trump was just too strong for him.
This sets up another mouth watering final with Trump and O’Sullivan, hopefully, battling it out to claim the Alex Higgins trophy.
The final between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump certainley lived up to it’s billing.
Nip and tuck with twists and turns andTrump running out the winner. A great advert for snooker.
Next stop on the pro tour is the UK Championship from the Barbican in York starting on 27 November -my favourite event!