Thursday night all roads lead to TJ's Pool Hall as the the top 16 players in the Newry and District Pool league battle it out for the much coveted Destination Newry sponsored Overall Individuals title.
The Singles will be played to a finish in a mouthwatering feast of pool. 4 former overall individuals winners could very realistically be the semi-final line-up which would be a dream for sponsors Destination Newry as well as all the neutral fans hoping to see the best Newry Pool has to offer.
Only 1 winner will emerge from each table to make up the semi-final line-up.
Table 1 has bookies favourite Manny BYRNE taking on David CROMIE. The winner of that will play either Micky CUNNINGHAM or Adrian ANNETT.
Table 2 Kieran McMAHON the 2nd favourite takes on Ralph CRUMMY. The winner plays either Paddy O'CALLAGHAN or Shane PHELAN.
Table 3 Declan McMAHON will play Emmett FEARON For a place in the 1/4 final with the winner taking on either Jason LENNON or Tommy MOONEY.
Table 4 Pat BRADY needs to see off Jack COURTNEY with the winner of that top tier clash taking on either Gavin MALONE or Ritchie TAYLOR for a place in the semi-final.
If the previous Overall Individuals winners come through unscathed the semi-final will look like this:
Manny Byrne v Kieran McMahon
Declan McMahon v Pat Brady.
That is an eye watering prospect. Between the 4 of them they have amazingly contested more than 10 overall individual finals.
Players like Jack Courtney, Tommy Mooney and Shane Phelan have all won the top tier league in fairly recent times and will fancy their chances of making the semi-final. Courtney is a 4 time league winner and a member of the Invicible's team that won the Double Quadruple. Tommy Mooney won a Quadruple with Corrinshego while Shane Phelan has bagged a league and cup Double with CWC this year.
MICKY CUNNINGHAM v ADRIAN ANNETT
Micky Cunningham has played well in this competion thus far . Cunningham might have won the league title 3 times in the old Yanks team but can he return to the Glory days? A beaten individuals finalist a few decades ago isn't something league supremo will be able to fall back on. Cunningham had a good win over Cathal Phelan though in the Cunningham Cup final last week and his league form has been excellent since the turn of the year. The league Secretary is taking out big finishes and has the tactical brain to make this a difficult game for Annett.
Adrian Annett has improved significantly since the start of the season. He is playing more intelligent pool and waiting for the finish instead of rushing in all guns blazing. Annett has tasted success in the form of 2 promotions in recent years as well as Divisional cup success.
Both players are on form and are capable of finishing a game in one visit. Cunningham has the better tactical game and a night of high pressure might work in his favour.
Winner: Micky Cunningham
Manny Byrne v David Cromie
This is the equivalent of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps (23 Olympic Gold Medals) taking on your average Sunday league swimmer. What Cromie does posses is the ability to turn water into quicksand.
Manny Byrne is an Irish tour winner and more than holds his own at the World Pool Championships in Blackpool. There is no doubting the Double Quadruple winner with the 'Invicible's' is a cut above most players but his attacking style leaves him vulnerable to the sucker punch.
David Cromie is an expert at turning a table messy. He will hang balls and give Manny Byrne plenty to think about. The longer Cromie can drag out a frame the more likely he is to win. He beat Master tactician Bernie Magee last time out.
The Orchard Ace Cromie is going to try and tie the game up from the start. Byrne might need to be patient but he only needs a sniff and it could be the quicksand for Cromie.
Winner: Manny Byrne
KIERAN McMAHON v RAPHAEL CRUMMY
The best of 3 frames gives anyone a chance of beating anyone. The favourite doesn't always come through. Kieran McMahon is red hot favourite to win but Crummy will be relaxed and ready to cause a shock.
Bud Flanagan beat McMahon at this stage last season. It was a massive shock and one McMahon will remember only too well. McMahon is a slick well oiled Machine and judging by his finish in the Cunningham Cup he's bang on form. That black he potted was outrageous. McMahon is arguably the best all-rounder in the local game. Superb potter and a brilliant safety game. He prefers perfect positional shots instead of flicks and cannons.
My biggest gripe with Ralph Crummy is that everyone seems to spell his surname wrong. Could everyone please follow the no.1 blogger in the Town and spell his surname Crummy. The Bears' 'Bald Eagle' has his work cut out catching his prey this time. Crummy has a decent safety game but it's his superb potting and taking out big finishes that has got him to the last 16.
It's hard to see him out pot Kieran McMahon and he won't be able to tie McMahon up either. Ralph will need the balls to break very kindly indeed to put the pressure on snooker ace McMahon. It's unlikely that the pool God's will be that kind so only one realistic out come here.
Winner: Kieran McMahon
PADDY O'CALLAGHAN v SHANE PHELAN
These two were team mates with Whitecross last season and both left for pastures new. They will both realise they could have got tougher opposition in the draw.
Paddy O'Callaghan is quite new to the Newry Pool league but his attacking style has been a breath of fresh air and he is a joy to watch. Not known for his tactical play it seems O'Callaghan has a policy of attack is the best form of defence. O'Callaghan beat another ataack minded player Brendan Devlin in the last round but it will be interesting to see how he copes with the more cagey opponent in Shane Phelan.
Shane Phelan has learnt alot from his year in CWC. He played his part in picking up 2 trophies and all assets of his game have improved immensely. He was always a decent potter but now his decision making and tactical knowledge under the tutorial of Pat Brady has made him a serious force to be reckoned with.
Paddy O'Callaghan will be punished if he doesn't take out the big finishes that he will surely go for. Shane Phelan has made himself really hard to beat and because he can win the dirty frames he should win an exciting close match.
Winner: Shane Phelan
JASON LENNON v TOMMY MOONEY
Youth verses experience at a very high level will be on show here in the opener on table 3.
Jason Lennon made it to the last night of the Singles last year so it's hardly a surprise to see him back again. He enjoyed a mixed season with TJ's Tigers but finished the season with a string of good wins. Lennon brings style, class, excitement and accuracy to the table. Has Lennon learned the tactical side of the game which will be crucial to winning this match never mind the tournament? Lennon has had success in the form of 2 promotions with TJ's Tigers as well as a Divisional cup. He seems to relish the pressure and Tommy Mooney could well provide it in abundance.
Success has followed Tommy Mooney since his glory days with Corrinshego. Promotions and Divisional Cups have followed with Trainor's in Camlough and Mooney was almost unbeatable in those lover divisions. His biggest problem might be moving up in class were one mistake is likely to cost you a frame whereas down the divisions you are more likely to get away with bad shots. Mooney likes going for big finishes but he has the plan 'B' ready for action when needed. Coming from the Corrinshego stable you can be sure has tactical game is fairly sound.
Two excellent potters who like to play exciting, attacking pool should make for a cracking game. Mooney has the experience but if Jason Lennon can get in his groove he can nick this one.
Winner: Jason Lennon
DECLAN McMAHON v EMMETT FEARON
Declan McMahon appeared in 3 top tier Division 1 individuals finals in a row. The glory years were back in 2008, 2009 and 2010. He won 2 and lost out to Cathal Phelan in the other. McMahon knows what it takes to win the title. Big question is does he still have what it takes to win the title? Back then he was simply a potting machine. Nowadays he's a bit more thoughtful about his shot selection. Why he hasn't featured as much in the business end since then is a mystery. Obviously less time spent at the table (and I don't mean dinner table) is one reason. Maybe the hunger just wasn't there. McMahon is still a lethal potter and he is a great tactician.
Emmett Fearon knows only his A game will be enough on Thursday night or it will be an early exit. Fearon started off with Killeavy before helping St.Monnina win Division 2. There's no doubting Fearon is a classy potter. There is a good reason why here is the rank outside at 28/1. The South Armagh is all out attack and has very little in the way of a tactical game. Playing most of his pool in Division 2 can't help his cause but he's coming in full of confidence and is cueing well.
This will be a quality game and if the balls break well then expect short frames. Declan McMahon is the full package though and we would expect the Postie to deliver the knock out blow.
Winner: Declan McMahon
GAVIN MALONE v RICHIE TAYLOR
Both players will be delighted to have missed one of the big guns in the last 16. This is an interesting match-up between two inconsistent players.
Gavin Malone is inconsistent personified. One week he can't pot a ball next week he can't miss a ball. Malone is unlikely to go out all guns blazing going for big finishes. He will need to bring his 'A ' game or he is in for a long night using a tactical game which he is well capable of. He is a useful potter when on form and can take out tricky finishes. The Whitecross captain guided his side to 2 cup finals 2 seasons ago but success has been thin on the ground for him and his Hill Billy team mates.
Richie Taylor is one of the most improved players in the Newry Pool league this year and is right in the groove at the moment. He brushed aside Stevie Teggart in the last round and he is playing in alot of tournaments of late. Taylor is a fine potter and likes the big finishes. He can play the cagey game to so this could turn out a battle of wits.
If the balls don't break kindly these two could drag this game through the trenches. If Richie Taylor hits form Malone will spend most of the match watching from the sidelines.
Winner: Richie Taylor
PAT BRADY v JACK COURTNEY
Easily the tie of the round all eyes will be on this match which should be a classic.
Two of the outright favourites for the title go head to head. There's also the CWC v TJ's A rivalry for good measure.
Pat Brady brought the Premier Division home to CWC for the 1st time in their history. He plays his pool in the same style as his captaincy. No nonsense and all business. It's all about the win. If the finish is on Big Pat will go game. But he loves nothing more than a good tactical battle. He will play for the foul and 2 shots then destroy you.
Jack Courtney had a tough season but still came out with 2 cups. Courtney was a beaten finalist last season's individuals final. Courtney will need to take his opportunities if and when they arise as he knows Brady will make him pay. On his game Courtney has great positional play and is a superb potter. He can mix it up in the tactical stakes but taking on Brady in that in a battle of wits is a dangerous game.
Expect 2 if not 3 long frames but the 'Gardener' looks likely to end on the compost heap as the Barman raises his glass to a 1/4 final spot.
Winner: Pat Brady
Our tips for the 1/4 finals looks like this:
1. Micky Cunningham v Manny Byrne
2. Kieran McMahon v Shane Phelan
3. Jason Lennon v Declan McMahon
4. Richie Taylor v Pat Brady
What a high quality 1/4 final we will have no matter who gets through.
You would imagine should Manny Byrne and Micky Cunningham make the 1/4's that Byrne would book his semi-final place.
Kieran McMahon should have no real problems sealing his semi-final spot.
Jason Lennon and Declan McMahon would make the tie of the 1/4 finals. McMahon has the tactical game to beat the best potters so he is our tip for the semi-final.
Pat Brady should he overcome Jack Courtney should ease past Richie Taylor.
Possible semi-final line-up:
Manny Byrne v Kieran McMahon
Declan McMahon v Pat Brady
Now if that didn't get your pulses racing then you need to check you're still alive.
Trying to pick a winner between Manny Byrne and Kieran McMahon is just a stab in the dark.
Many people rate Byrne and McMahon as the best 2 players in the league. Both unbelievable potter's. Manny Byrne is more likely to go for the break finish whereas Kieran McMahon will be slightly more cautious in his approach.
This would be an unbelievable match if they played 1st to 10. It's not so with Manny Byrne having home advantage and more used to the tables I'm giving Byrne a slight edge in a classic.
Declan McMahon v Pat Brady would be another classic. Both great potters and tactically excellent. Pat Brady would have the edge with all the pool he's playing.
And Remember lads its only a game of pool .