Local pool stars eye Inter-League glory
COLERAINE Pool League representatives head to Ballymena this Sunday (January 23) to take part in the NI Pool Association Inter-League competition.
Selector Raymond Stockman has picked a strong team as they bid to retain the tournament they last won in 2007. The Coleraine lads were runners-up in 2009, but they suffered a disappointing tournament last time out but Raymond told Times Sport they are determined to put it right this time out.
"The Inter-League competition is the 'Blue Ribbon' event in Northern Ireland," he explained.
"It's the elite players who make up the 11-man team representing their local league with each match played over the best of 23 frames.
"Holders North Down and Ards will be many people's tip for the title. There is a very strong field with teams from Carrick, Larne, Ballyclare, Antrim, Ballymoney and Town & Country, who over the last few years have had snooker star Mark Allen playing for them.
"I know the local lads always look forward to taking part in this event. The atmosphere is electric and there are plenty of highs and lows as the game swings one way and another.
"It has been said the easiest of finishes become very difficult as you become anxious and bervous with the large crowd watching your every move.
"The adrenalin and stress is unreal. But the best feeling in team pool outside playing for your country is winning a game for your team in the Inter-League.
"If you can build on a good run of wins your confidence is sky high and it's a good time to shine against the country's best players."
Coleraine have a strong squad with no less than eight players being selected to represent Northern Ireland at the European Masters in Bridlington this April.
Six have qualified for the Men's A Team with two players finishing in the top three in the qualifier at Antrim's Plaza Hotel.
The squad is as follows:
Corry Sweeny (Forge B) - Top three qualifier for the NI A Team makes his debut for Coleraine in the Inter-League competition. He is developing in to a strong player and has the potential to beat anyone.
Allen Tosh (Forge) - Top four qualifier for NI A Team solid at one frame matches more than capable player.
Billy Moore (Sperrin) - Qualified well inside the top seven for the NI A Team. An experienced player who knows what it takes to win and how to handle the pressure.
Lee Hull (Forge) - NI A Team player. A talented, consistant potter who has many caps for the Coleraine Inter-League team.
Willie Eakin (Forge) - Another regular NI A Team player. A past Coleraine singles champion and an experienced and strong potter. He is a confident single frame player who is well respected.
Marc Hutchinson (Bull's Eye) - Top seven qualifier for NI A Team. An explosive breaker of the balls who loves an open play type of game and an under-18 and under-21 champion.
Ady Toner (Bull's Eye) - An experienced NI player whose international record is matched by very few. He is a strong Inter-League player who on current form would be rated in the top three.
Willie Boreland (Bull's Eye) - Likes an open table of balls and can pull out an eight ball finish from anywhere.
Aaron Moffett (Sperrin) - Past Singles champion who although might not be having his best year in league pool who we all know from the Lodge Pool Festival can rise to the occasion. With this in mind he was an easy pick for Raymond Stockman.
Darrel Watt (Forge) - Has just missed out on the team in recent years, but his current form made him a certainty. A young player who has all the shots and can mix it with anyone.
Raymond Baxter (Forge) - One of the best players never to have won the Singles crown. He comes so close every year, but he has the ability to win the title. He is a rhythm top flight potter with loads of talent.
Lee Caulfield (Sperrin) - Current Coleraine champion who puts a lot of practice in. He plays in two pool leagues and the snooker league. He is a great long potter and he always keeps team morale high.
Davy Tosh (Bull's Eye) - He is the only player to have won the Coleraine Singles title five times, he just missed out on a sixth by a black ball against Willie Eakin. He has the potential to be in the elite of NI players but work and family commitments make it hard for him to practice.
Raymond Stockman (Sperrin) - The team selector and captain who has just qualified for the NI Senior A Team in Bridlington. He was a beaten finalist at the Senior European Championships in Rhyl. He will use all his experience and knowhow to help the team. He says he might play if the team needs him, but he feels there is enough talent in the squad to secure victory without him.