For the First time in the history of the Newry and District Pool league we are going to take a look at each and every individuals fixture and analyse how the games might pan out with our expert views. With no change at the top of any of the 3 divisions after Thursday's results its the perfect time to take a look at the individuals draw.
The Newry andH District Pool League never fails to throw up some fantastic draws but this year has pitted so many 'big names' together that this is surely the most fascinating first round draw in the history of the pool league.
Defending champion James O'Hagan was a surprise winner last season. He was playing on the 2nd tier with Dan's C and has since helped them to promotion to the Premier Division. He has a really tricky opening round tie against the formidable Karl McGuinness (Orchard Bar). McGuinness beat multiple singles winner Kieran McMahon twice in the league last season so he knows his way around the table. Both players like to attack the game and I can't see the referee being over worked in this shoot-out. The game is fixed for Dan's bar so home advantage might just give O'Hagan the edge.
Also in Dan's Bar which has arguably the best line-up of all the venues is Niall O'Hare (TJ's D) v Eugene McDermott ( TJ's A). O'Hare represented N.I in the world pool championships at youth level a few years ago and like McDermott is all out attack. O'Hare has been disappointing this season for TJ's D while McDermott has played very little for quadruple winners TJ's A this season. O'Hare can beat anyone on his day but McDermott has been around a long time and starts favourite.
Laurence McAlinden (TJ's A) v Michael Feenan (Whitecross) is another fascinating tie. McAlinden has been virtually unbeatable this season. He will wait for the right moment to strike before going for the kill and can take out amazing finishes. Feenan does more of his action on social media but he can pot with the best of them when on form. Yet to achieve anything in the sport he will soon have to back up his talking on the baize. He is a former youth international with N.I at the World championships but its time for him to step up to the plate. McAlinden the obvious favourite here.
Last on in Dan's is Shane Phelan (Whitecross) v Tristan Byrne (TJ's A). Phelan has helped Whitecross to 2nd in the Premier Division this season so he should have a good level of confidence. Unfortunately for Phelan, Byrne is really on his game this season. Byrne has been selected to play for N.I pool team for the upcoming European championships in France and he will be hard to stop in this one.
Moore's Bar will host last seasons runner-up Raymond McKenna. He takes on Orchard Bars David Cromie and it's impossible in envisage anything other than a McKenna win here.
Sean Rice (TJ' D) v John Magee (McGuigan's A) could be a huge banana skin for Premier player Magee. He's having a horrid season while TJ's Rice is not one of his teams most profile scorers he might just fancy his chances here.
Declan McConville (TJ's A) should have no problems against Malachy Maguire (Nan's Rams). Maguire is playing great stuff but TJ's A captain McConville is 1 of the best players in the Premier Division hence a call up to the N.I European Pool Championships squad.
Armagh/Down will host some brilliant matches as some Premier Division legends roll into the quiet Monaghan Street venue.
Paddy Tavey (Sheepbridge) v Manny Byrne (TJ's A) is a tasty wee starter. Tavey has recently been selected for the N.I pool team and is a much improved player over the past year. His knowledge of shot selection is his strong point but sometimes his potting doesn't mix it with the 'big boys'. Byrne is one of the 'big boys' and he's been on a different level to everyone else this season. He's been dishing for fun and only scrappy frames will prevent this being an easy match for Byrne.
Joseph McTaggart v Marty O'Callaghan is a Whitecross derby match game. O'Callaghan was flying before the Christmas holidays and has been absent ever since. He will start hot favourite against McTaggart. McTaggart will no doubt try to slow O'Callaghan down but it's hard to foresee a shock result here.
Jack Courtney (TJ's A) v Damien Kearney (Hustlers) is a very interesting draw and is the 3rd match of the night. Courtney his at the peak of his game right now and is a big player for quadruple winners TJ's A. Kearney is blowing hot and cold and has come in for a bit of stick here in the blog in the past. Kearney can certainly pull out the big finishes but he has been known to crack under pressure. Courtney should just have the edge in a close contest.
Paddy O'Callaghan (Whitecross) and Harvey Lavelle (Carrickcuppen) finish the night in Armagh/Down and what a finish this could be. O'Callaghan has the game to give former individuals champion Lavelle a very uncomfortable night. The balls will need to fall very kindly for O'Callaghan if he is to upset the odds and topple the extremely talented Lavelle.
In McGuigans's Cathal McCoy (Hustlers) kicks off the night against Kieran Loughran (Forresters). McCoy is a big talker when it comes too pool but as we see it he hasn’t been getting to many team results this season and will start this match slight favourite against the lesser known Loughran. Loughran should not be taken for granted. He got to the finals night of the individuals last season He's well known in the South Armagh pool circles and this is certainly going to be no walk over for McCoy.
Tony McGovern (orchard bar) v Kenny Gilbraith (McGuigan's B) is another game closer to call than it originally looks. McGovern has played at the top all his career and has plenty of trophies for his efforts. Gilbraith is a fantastic potter and had some good wins in this competition last year so this is no easy game for McGovern.
Anthony Morgan (Hustlers) v Christopher Smith (Dan's C) should be a win for Morgan. Neither player has set the world alight this season so this could be a long game.
Nan's Rams will host 2 time Individual winner Declan McMahon (TJ's A). Shane McMahon (Dan's C) has his work cut out here. These 2 McMahons are no relation and their pool are as different as day and night. Declan should have no problems here.
Plenty of experience when Gerard McGuigan (McGuigans's A) takes on Ralph Cromie (Orchard Bar). McGuigan is a very accomplished player and should have no problems against Cromie.
Rony O'Reilly (McGuigan's C) will take on Stephen Johnston (Nan's Rams). O'Reilly is having another brilliant season for McGuigan's C and we are delighted he has decided to enter the singles this year. The best competition needs the best players to enter it and O'Reilly can claim to fall into that category. Johnston may have home advantage but O'Reilly has the skill advantage.
TJ's table 1 will host 2 former winners of the individuals. First up Cathal Phelan (Whitecross) a multiple winner will take on Oran Keenan (Armagh/Down. Keenan is enjoying a good season but Phelan is always there or thereabouts when the big prizes come out of the cupboard. Phelan red hot favourite here.
Pat Byrne (Carrickcruppen) v Mickey O'Hanlon (Whitecross) is a contrast in styles. Byrne is pure attack while O'Hanlon likes a slower more cagey game. The lightening fast tables in TJ's give a slight advantage to Byrne.
Paddy Phillips (Boyds) v Shane McVerry McGuigan's C will be a tight game. Neither player has a pups chance in hell of winning the singles crown but McVerry should at least have his name in the hat for the 2nd round.
Kieran McMahon (CWC) will start the tournament as 1 of the favourites when he takes on Kevin Magee (Hustlers). Magee is having a horrendous season while McMahon has just cruised along beating virtually all before him. McMahon another multiple individuals winner could win this game blindfolded.
TJ's table 2 Cormac Duffy (Maddens) v Mark Magurie (Nan's Rams) can only be a Maguire win. Duffy only recently signed up for Maddens and has had a decent start but Maguire is a huge player for the Rams and has been producing the goods all season.
Brian Campbell (McGuigan's A) v Shane McAllister (Hustlers) is just toss of the coin. Both having very good seasons to date and both well capable of taking out a tricky finish. McAllister possibly the better potter and could shade a tight contest.
Kris Fletcher (Boyds) v Martin McVeigh (Carrickcruppen) is very interesting. Both can take out a big finish and both can play a cagey game. Fletcher is a quality player but with McVeigh playing at a higher level this could give him the edge.
Alan Burke (Whitecross) v Peter McCourt (Granvue) is a good game to finish with. Burke has been playing mostly cups and may well be out of practice. McCourt has had some good wins this season and this is a tricky tie for Burke.
TJ's table 3 Shane Durnin (Armagh/Down) takes on John McClorey (CWC). McClorey may well be a Premier player but he's not enjoying the best of seasons. If Durnin can get into his potting stride he should take this 1.
Eddie Heaney (Bears) takes on Ciaran Hanna (McGuigan's A) Heaney might be enjoying life at the top of Division 1 but Hanna is 1 of the top players in the Premier this season and the McGuigans Young gun starts a favourite.
Micky Cunningham (Hustlers) takes on a confident Paul Bruen (Granvue). League Secretary Cunningham has been in and out of the Hustlers side while Bruen has been a major player in Granvue's promotion campaign. Cunningham will need all his his graft and guile to see this 1 through.
Paul Taylor (TJ's C) v Mike Nugent (Nan's Rams) could go either way. Both very capable players. Nugent probably playing the better this season but Taylor has more strings to his bow and gets the nod from me.
Table 4 Neil Heaney (Bears) will step up in class against Lee Irvine (Orchard Bar). Heaney might be a super potter but the 'baby faced Assassin' comes up against a master tactician in Irvine with the Orchard star favourite here.
Daniel McGuigan (McGuigan's A) v Ritchie Magee (Granvue) is a good draw for young McGuigan who is playing well and should claim a victory against Magee who playing well himself.
Niall McVerry (Sheepbridge) v Barry Murphy (Hustler) is a quality match-up. Both excellent players but McVerry has been lethal and should take the win.
Seamus Keenan (Bears) v Leigh McAlinden should be another good close game. Keenan has hit form this season as Bears lead Division 1 but McAlinden is a quality potter and might just nick this 1 on a decider.
In CWC Billy O'Neill (Husters) v Gerard Harte ( Armagh/Down) kick us off on Hill Street. O'Neill has all the Premier experience and should see off a fairly useful Harte.
Paul Murphy Bears v Niall McQuillan ( TJ's C) is close to call. Murphy hasn't been a world beater for his all conquering Bears and McQuillan can pot his way to the 2nd round.
Seamus Graham (Dan's C) v Sean McKevitt (Bears) sees 2 players likely to swap divisions at the end of the season. McKevitt has played his part for a rejuvenated Bears and should have enough to beat Graham.
Jamie Lavelle ( Carrickcruppen) v Damien McArdle (TJ's C) is yet another brilliantly fascinating tie. Lavelle has improved a lot this season while 'Diddles' McArdle is in decline. Lavelle is taking out great finishes and McArdle is well capable of world class finishes too. Lavelle is on form and that should be the key here.
In Carrickcruppen Noel Bradley (McGuigan's C) v Barry McAllister (Carrickcruppen) open proceedings. Bradley is enjoying a fruitful season as he aims for promotion while McAllister has struggled for much of this season. Bradley can take this match even though McAllister has home advantage.
Paul Hughes (Carrickcruppen) takes on Cailim McParland (CWC). Both players are struggling really badly this season and whoever gets the winner of this game will be delighted. Hughes might just get over the line here but we can expect 3 long hard fought frames.
Seamus McVerry (Dan's C) and Keith Gilbraith (McGuigan's B) sees another struggling Premier team player take on a lower division player. Gilbraith is doing ok this season and might just cause an upset here.
Gavin McNally (TJ's D) v Paul O'Callaghan ( McGuigan's A) is a no brainier. O'Callaghan is a former individual winner on more than 1 occasion and although McNally is having a good season the former Corrinshego legend O'Callaghan is just too good for an upset here.
Bear's hosts Jamie Fletcher (Boyds) and Damien Flannaghan (McGuigan's A) 1st. Neither player has been unreal this season but Flanaghan has experience over youth in this 1 for me.
Adrian Annett (TJ's D) should have no problem against Chris McKeown (Forresters)
Brendan McNally (Nan's Rams) v Darren McCloskey (Orchard Bar) could go either way. McCloskey can pot a ball but has struggled this season so McNally can shock the premier player here.
Gareth McCann (Whitecross) v Liam Bradley (McGuigan's C) is a great tie. McCann has long been a huge player for Whitecross but has drifted in and out of the team this year. Bradley has been scorching his way past opponents this season and McCann has a real test here. Bradley has all the momentum and can nick a close match.
Boyds has Jimmy McVerry (Dan's C) v Pat McClenaghan (Nan's Rams) to get them started. Both have had mixed fortunes but McClenaghan has the confidence to take it.
A big Granvue derby match-up sees Conor Dullaghan play Shane Feehan. Both are enjoying good seasons and with little to choose between the 2 we have to go with Dullaghan as he has more wins this season.
Stevie Noades (TJ's A) takes on the supremely confident Aaron O'Callaghan. What a game this promises to be. Noades has been there and done it. O'Callaghan is in the fledgling of what could be a brilliant pool career. Boyds table is not unlike that of the Windmill so O'Callaghan could just adapt better and take this 1.
Mark Pentony (Nan's Rams) v Thomas Hughes (Hustlers) could finish a late night. Hughes won't be rushed and should just have enough experience and potting ability to see off a confident Pentony.
Sheepbridge will have Damien woods (TJ's C) v David Hanna (TJ's D) to kick off the night. Although Woods is a fair decent player Davy Hanna is bang in form and should be able to chop Woods down to size.
Stephen Teggart (TJ's A) v Ciaran O'Neill (Hustlers) would normally be a banker for Teggart. Teggart has given the blog a bit of stick lately citing his great record this season but he still hasn't claimed a regular spot on the TJ's all conquering team. O'Neill is having a cracking season for Hustlers and will be no pushover. Teggart should still have too much in the locker though.
Joe Poucher (McGuigan's C) v Jason Lennon (TJ's D) promises to be 1 of the best matches of the 1st round. Lennon is lethal in the open table and this shoot-out is unlikely to last too long. Poucher has bags of experience at the very top and that will give him the edge.
Orchard Bar has John McMurray (TJ's C) v Gavin Malone (Whitecross) and this should be a cagey opening bout of the night. Both players are more than willing to keep it tight but Malone comes into this in slightly better form and starts favourite.
Brian O'Neill ( Whitecross) v Kevin Pearce (McGuigan's B) can surely only be an O'Neill win. Pearce is having a decent season but O'Neill who has beaten the legendary Manny Byrne at this stage should have few problems here.
Kieran Hanna (McGuigan's A) v Marty McClelland (CWC) is another tight 1 to call. Both have won their fair share this season and both can mix it tactically and a shootout. Tactics would certainly suit Hanna better and he gets my vote by a whisker.
Seamus McGeoghegan (Sheepbridge) v Austin Gilbraith (McGuigan's B) can only be a McGeoghegan win. The cue doesn't always strike the way it used to for McGeoghegan but there are few players in the local game with the knowledge on the baize that he has. Austy has been pretty solid but ex- Corrinshego ace McGeoghegan should have no problems here.
Bellinis host Paul McAreavey (McGuigan's A) v Emmet Fearon (Murphys). Fearon takes a huge jump up in class to McGuigan's A super potter McAreavey. McAreavey is having a fruitful season and although Fearon is more than holding his own for Murphy's, there is no real prospect of an upset here.
Jimmy O'Hare (Nan's Rams) v Gary Fitzmaurice (McGuigan's B). Don't expect this to be a shoot-out from a good old John Wayne movie. This match has the potential to be better than any sleeping tablet on the market. After a slug-fest Fitzmaurice might just edge this 1 on a re-spot.
Mervyn Kernaghan (Orchard Bar) v Richard Fletcher (Boyds) will definitely be a step up in class from the previous game but we can still expect some tight tactical exchanges. Fletcher always made it to the latter stages of this competition a few years back but his lack of match practice could be his undoing here. Kernaghan is playing well and will fancy a win which some might even call a surprise result if the Orchard ace can edge it.
Diarmuid Lonergan (Sheepbridge) v Ritchie Crawford (Orchard bar) yet again pits 2 players together who can mix it up. Crawford was a game for any1 a few years back but just like Fletcher and so many the lack of pool has left him off the pace. Lonergan is no spring chicken either but his Sheepbridge team are fighting hard for 2nd place in the Premier Division and he is right in the heart of that team. Lonergan should nick this by the odd frame after a long night in Belinis.
Next week it's Cunningham Cup blog so try and make sure you win! Check out the rest of the website for all the league results and the updated league tables.