The Tennent’s Coleraine Pool League held this year’s Festival of Pool, for the first time, in the Sperrin Club.
As always, with a new venue, there were some doubts as to how the week – long event would play out. However, it turned out to be one of the most successful and enjoyable festivals for a number of years, down to a combination of some excellent hospitality from the hosts and the league players positively embracing the changes that had been made this year.
The league would like to put on record their thanks to all who made it a success. The main league sponsors Tennents NI. Our competition sponsors – 147 Club, Clement Dealey photography, The Bull’s Eye & Coleraine Times. The staff & members of the Sperrin Club who made all the players feel very welcome.
147 Club Individuals
The week was rounded off perfectly when Davy Tosh, who played out of the Sperrin club for many years won his sixth 147 Club singles title, beating Raymond Baxter 6-5 in an epic final. A remarkable achievement for a man who had just returned from a short break from the game, due to an ongoing health issue. Davy has now cemented his place as the best player ever to play in the Coleraine League and it is very doubtful that his haul of six singles titles will ever be equalled, let alone bettered.
As for Baxter, his quest for that elusive first singles title goes on, with this his third time on the losing end in a final. Both players came through a smaller than usual, but still strong field. Tosh had the likes of Marc Hutchinson to contend with in the earlier rounds, before beating Allen Tosh in the semis 5-1. Allen had a great run to the semis as he came through three matches in a row which all went to the deciding frame. However, namesake Davy was just too strong for him. Baxter had a tougher route to the final as he met Neville Smyth and Billy Moore before a very hard fought battle against favorutie Tommy Morrow in the semi finals.
As the players stepped up to the table for the final, a large crowd had gathered to watch the two do battle, with the support very much hoping that Tosh could get another title under his belt. The early omens did not look good however, as Baxter raced into a 3-0 lead in no time. However, Tosh showed all his experience as he ground out the next two frames to bring it back to 3-2. The next two frames were scrappy with each player taking one each. Tosh should have levelled the match in the next but missed a relatively easy red to the middle, Baxter potted a tricky black to take a 5-3 lead and put himself one frame away from the match and a first title.
However, Tosh was not to be denied, he took the next frame before producing an excellent break and finish to send the match to a decider. Tosh had the first chance in the decider but he missed a red giving Baxter a chance at the yellows. The Forge man attempted a typically aggressive shot in an attempt to develop all of his balls, but a missed cannon left him with no easy shot for his next. A poor safety allowed Tosh back in, he potted 3 tough reds before sinking a long black to the delight of the audience, who gave the now six time champion a standing ovation, marking an excellent achievement.
Quarter Finals - Tommy Morrow 5 – 3 Darryl Watt; Raymond Baxter 5 – 2 Billy Moore; Allen Tosh 5 – 4 Jimmy Moore; Davy Tosh 5 – 0 Steven Morton
Semis - Raymond Baxter 5 – 3 Tommy Morrow; Davy Tosh 5 – 1 Allen Tosh
Final - Davy Tosh 6 – 5 Raymond Baxter
This year’s winners of the doubles may have been a surprise to some, but looking at the league form it is no surprise that Allen Tosh (Social Club A) and Gary Wallace (Bull’s Eye A) came together to be crowned this year’s doubles champions. The pairing did not have an easy draw as they met the fancied pairing of Raymond Baxter and Willie Eakin from the Forge A in the opening round, however, Tosh and Wallace made short work of the Forge pair destroying them 4-1.
They did have a scare in their next against Adam Watt and Scott McClelland but they battled through to reach the semi finals. Here, they met Lee Hull and Marc Hutchinson, another Forge A pairing, they found themselves 3-2 down and may well have been out had Hutchinson listened to his partner. However, Tosh & Wallace got the chance they needed and sealed their place in the final. There they met Lee Caulfield and Davy Tosh, with Tosh looking to add to his earlier singles victory. Having got an earlier fright against the comedy pairing of Alan McBride and Darren Boyd in the second round, Tosh and Caulfield kicked on easily seeing off Willie Boreland and Neville Smyth followed by Paul Baird and Sean McNicholl in their semi. The final started off quite slowly with both teams struggling to flow at the end of a long day. However, Tosh and Wallace overall did play the better pool and ran out deserved winners in the end.
Semi finals - Lee Caulfield & Davy Tosh 4 – 2 Sean McNicholl & Paul Baird; Lee Hull & Marc Hutchinson 3 – 4 Allen Tosh & Gary Wallace
Final - Caulfield & Tosh 2 – 4 Tosh & Wallace
Clement Dealey Photography Knockout Cup
With the new single frame format for the Knockout Cup and Plate coming into play, this did lead to some tight matches. However, it was still the big two, Sperrin A & Forge A, who met in the final. In the earlier rounds, the Sperrin A’s biggest test came against a determined Forge B side who took the match right to the last frame before going down 11-9. The Forge A’s biggest test was undoubtedly their semi final against the in form Bullseye A. In what was a tight match throughout, the Forge A just pulled away in the last session thanks to Lee Hull and Marc Hutchinson with two great wins.
The Sperrin A met second division Bullseye B in the other semi, even though it was level at the end of the first session, the first division side pushed on in the second session, eventually running out 11-6 winners. The final started on an even keel as the match was level after the first session at 4-4, Baxter and Hutchinson best for the Forge, Billy Moore for the Sperrin. However, Tommy Morrow was instrumental in the Sperrin getting the upper hand in the second session as he produced some great pool to beat Baxter twice, indeed the Sperrin took all four of the last frames of this session, to take a 9-7 lead.
With their backs against the wall, the Forge tried to fight back but they just couldn’t get going at the end of a long night and wins for Morrow, once again, and Lee Caulfield sealed the knockout cup for their team at their home venue.
Semi Finals - Sperrin A 11 – 6 Bullseye B; Forge A 11 – 7 Bullseye A
Final - Sperrin A 11 – 7 Forge A
Clement Dealey Photography Knockout Plate
This year’s Division 2 champions Railway Arms added to their trophy haul as they secured the plate competition, producing some excellent pool. Having been dumped out of the Cup in the first round by eventual winners Sperrin A, they saw off Social Club in the first round of the plate. This left them with a semi final against first division bottom side Forge B. In what looked a tight encounter on paper proved anything but, as the Railway Arms stormed into a 7-1 lead after the first session. They went on to win 11-3.
This set up a final with another first division side, Social Club A. A talented side in their own right. It was the first division side who started the strongest, taking a 5-3 lead after the first session, Chris Moore taking two from two. However, the next session proved how important momentum is in this one frame format. The Railway men took the first 3 frames in the next session, eventually winning that session 7-1, leaving the match 10 – 6 in their favour.
The second session saw Johnny McDowell impress for the Division 2 champions. The Social Club threatened a fightback with wins for Gavin McClements & Chris Moore. However, the Arms were not to be denied and it was Adam Watt who potted the final black to send his teamamates wild.
Final - Railway Arms 11 – 8 Social Club A
Coleraine Times Captains Cup
With the Coleraine Times Captains Cup amalgamated this year, it resulted in a bigger and better competition. With the Division 2 captains getting a frame start this levelled the playing field and it proved very fair, as the four semi finalists were evenly split between first and second divisions. Representing Division 2, at the semi final stage, were Arthur McMullan and Andy Hutchinson. McMullan had a great run to this stage as he took out two of the favoured competitors, in Raymond Baxter and Raymond Stockman.
McMullan using the one frame start to his advantage in both matches, playing some excellent pool. Hutchinson also took a good scalp in the early rounds, eliminating Damien Reid in a tense final frame decider. Reid was left holding his head in his hands as Hutchinson sent the black around three cushions and into the pocket. Hutchinson and McMullan then met in the semi final, guaranteeing one second division captain in the final. Neither player found the form of their previous wins, and the game went to 3-3. McMullan will feel he should have won the decider but poor use of two shots gave Hutchinson a lifeline, which the Mary Pats man took to reach the final.
In the final, he met Scott Clark of the Forge B. Clark had played some great pool in this event, with an excellent performance to beat Chris Wade in the semi finals. Unofrtunately for Hutchinson, he did not perform in the final. Clark, sensing his opponent was struggling grew in confidence and controlled matters to run out a 4-2 winner and become the first winner of the new, amalgamated Coleraine Times Captains Cup.
Semi Finals - Arthur McMullan (Railway Arms) 3 – 4 Andy Hutchinson (Mary Pats); Scott Clark (Forge B) 4 – 1 Chris Wade (Forge Bar)
Final - Clark 4 – 2 Hutchinson
Senior open individuals
The ‘old boys’ event was limited to over 45s this year, having been over 40s in previous years. Two of the favourites met in the very first round as Paul O’Connor met Paul Baird. In a marathon battle, which lasted over two hours, it was Baird who pulled through. Baird followed this up with a win over Davy Logue before meeting another fancied player in Raymond Stockman in the semi final. This match ended in slightly controversial fashion as Stockman shook the hand of Baird to concede after Baird had an easy finish. However, those watching were in slight disbelief as it seemed Baird had only won three, not the required four frames. However, the game was finished after the handshake and Baird proceeded to the final. The league may consider installing scoreboards for the seniors event next year.
The other half of the draw was very open and it was former Roost player John Cameron who battled to the final. John has not played any league pool this year, but as this was an open event, he came to support the festival and he will be glad he did. Unfortunately, for John, he came up against an inspired performance from Baird in the final. The Forge man rolled back the years by producing top drawer pool on his way to a 4 – 0 victory to regain his seniors title.
Semi Finals - Paul Baird beat Raymond Stockman; John Cameron 4 – 2 George Canning
Final - Baird 4 – 0 Cameron
Under 23 open individuals
The second of the open events saw a slightly disappointing turnout, but nonetheless some talented players on show. The competition also saw the debut of 10 year old Darren Moore, son of Sperrin A player Billy, who is undoubtedly one for the future. He lost to Dijon McCorkell in the first round, but he showed glimpses of a top pool player in the making, enjoying his first experience in competitive pool.
McCorkell had already taken out one of the favourites, Scott Clark, in the preliminary round, before another soon followed as John Huston beat Lee McIlreavy. Huston & McCorkell then met in the semi final with Huston winning a tense decider. The other half of the draw saw the talented Marc Hutchinson make his way through against Corey Sweeney before meeting last year’s under 21 winner Chris Wade in the semi final. Wade seemed to be playing the better pool but the match went to the decider.
A very rash effort by Wade cost him the frame and a place in the final. Hutchinson and Huston shared the first two frames in the final, but Huston gave the impression that he was just happy to be there, and maybe lacked the belief that he could win the title. While Hutchinson was not at his best, he was able to do enough as Huston simply did not put any pressure on him, the young Forge A player & Northern Ireland mens internation reeled off the next three to win.
Semi Finals - Dijon McCorkell 3 – 4 John Huston; Marc Hutchinson 4 – 3 Chris Wade
Final - Hutchinson 4 – 1 Huston
The Bull’s Eye 3 Person team
This is the only event that is still to be finished as the final was unable to be scheduled before the festival ended. The final will be played in the sponsor’s venue during April. The first round saw the favourites from the Sperrin A (Lee Caulfield, Billy Moore, Tommy Morrow) meet a team from fierce rivals Forge A ( Lee Hull, Corey Sweeney, Neville Smyth) The Sperrin trio found themselves 6 – 2 up in the race to seven.
However, the Forge team pegged their way back to 6-6 to force the decider. Morrow met Hull in the decider and it was the latter who held his nerve to complete an excellent comeback. This Forge trio kicked on from here as they won their quarter final easily, before meeting their teammates (Raymond Baxter, Willie Eakin, Marc Hutchinson) in the semi final. However, with Neville Smyth particularly impressive in this match, it was the former who continued their run to reach the final.
They will have their work cut out in the final though as they face the team of Willie Boreland, Jimmy Moore & Chris Wade. This team was impressive throughout their run to the final with wins of 7-2, 7-3 & 7-3 in their three matches. They will be full of confidence come the night of the final.
Semi finals: L Hull, N Smyth & C Sweeney 7 – 3 Willie Eakin, R Baxter, M Hutchinson; W Boreland, J Moore, C Wade 7 – 3 R Stockman, P O’Connor, A Tosh
Final - Hull, Smyth, Sweeney vs Boreland, Moore, Wade – Date TBA, to be played in the Bull’s Eye