Destination Newry sponsored Pool Individuals is down to the last 32 as the race for the biggest prize in local cue sports hots up. £400 cash awaits the winner but more importantly the Newry Singles Trophy and the crown of being the best Pool Player in the Newry District.
Last year's joint holders Pat Brady and Kieran McMahon are both safely through to the last 32. And the good news for the neutral is that they are in opposite sides of the draw, so a rematch is very much still on the cards.
There are plenty of players still in the competition who will fancy their chances. Not least Paddy Clarke and a former winner Harvey Lavelle. Cathal Phelan, Stevie Teggart, Tommy Mooney, Bernie Magee and Paddy Tavey will all be quietly confident that they could be in the mix.
Damien McArdle (Hustlers) v Shane McAllister (Hustlers)
What a mouth watering game to get us started. 3 of the 4 Hustlers players are right next to each other in the draw so the winner of this match could have to play their team mate in the last 16.
Damien McArdle is an erratic potting machine. He can play a few tactical shots but when he's decided to go game then that's it, nothing else enters the head only the finish. His cueball control is minimal but his superb potting rescues him on so many occasions. McArdle started the season on fire but more recently has fell out of favour.
Shane McAllister has a strong all-around game. Good potter, good tactical play and thrives under pressure. A chink in the armour could be he is just too cautious. Very few players will come out on top in a safety battle with McAllister but sometimes he is prone to waiting an excruciatingly long time before he goes for the game. 9 wins from his last 12 league games is championship form and suggests he's doing very little wrong though.
Verdict: SHANE McALLISTER
Brendan McAllister (Nifty Fifty) v Cathal McCoy (Hustlers)
Two of the more experienced players go toe to toe here.
McAllister isn't exactly destroying the field in Division 2. A former Quinn's player when it was a family get together, McAllister has slipped down the tables to ply his trade in Foresters in the bottom rung of the ladder. McAlister would prefer a good old tactical battle and sometimes the attacking Division 2 players are just too good.
Cathal McCoy is solid as a rock. The new cushion rule has caught him out a few times but generally his safety game is sound and can take out a pressure finish. McCoy has good shot selection but the odd easy miss and positional play can let him down. 9 league defeats so far tells us McCoy is far from unbeatable although he has won his last 2.
Verdict: CATHAL McCOY
Cathal Phelan (Whitecross) v Paddy Tavey (CWC A)
These two were CWC A team mates in last years title winning side, which should add a bit of spice to the tie.
Without doubt this is one of the match-ups of the round.
Cathal Phelan has won the overall individuals twice but he won't need reminding that was a long time ago. Phelan is far from the deadly unshakable machine of old at the start of the season but has seriously improved. His shot selection and tactical side of the game are still right up there with the best. Positional play is probably his biggest downfall due pure and simply to lack of practice. The former Corrinshego star has won his last 7 league games on the spin and only 1 defeat in the last 11. He did miss the games against CWC and Ballyholland though.
Paddy Tavey is one of the most consistent players on the circuit now. He has taken the shackles off and although his safety is very strong it's his fantastic exciting finishes that are winning him games this past two seasons. This is probably the 1st season Tavey could be considered a real contender. He has only lost 3 league games so far and with 13 wins including a recent break and dish Tavey is in scintillating form.
Verdict: PADDY TAVEY
Gavin Malone (Whitecross) v Darren Devlin (Bosco)
Gavin Malone dumped 2016 winner James O'Hagan from the competition in one of the biggest shocks of the last round. Malone is having a dreadful season with Whitecross. His potting has been poor at best, his positional play in non-extistent and his safety play is not suited to the 'cushion rule'. Still the odd flashes of the old Malone leave him a dangerous opponent. He has just 7 league wins all season which isn't great.
Darren Devlin had a very good win over Niall McVerry in the previous round. Devlin is riding on the crest of a wave. He oozes confidence thanks to his outstanding record in Division 1 where he is winning week in week out. Devlin is no dozer when a snooker is required but it's his attacking pool and excellent finishes that have made him one of the top scorers in Division 1.
Verdict: DARREN DEVLIN
The 3 games to be played in McGuigan's Bar should be straightforward win's for the favourite's.
Noel Donaldson has a bye into the last 16. The Whitecross player was due to play the Late Barney Preece so Donaldson will receive a bye.
Gerard McGuigan (McGuigan's Bar) v Paddy Clarke (CWC A)
Gerard McGuigan is in decent form coming into this match. The proprietor has an unwavering urge to go for everything. If it's pottable then McGuigan will take it on. He is prone to the odd miss and positional play just goes clean out the window. McGuigan will play on his home table which might be beneficial to him. 5 wins from his last 6 (excluding Tues night's game) means McGuigan is in red hot form going into this game.9
Paddy Clarke will only play a safety when it is absolutely necessary. Just like his opponent he will take on virtually everything and knows his way around a finish. He has one of the best ball control and positional play in the area. Clarke makes the game look ridiculously easy. Clarke is looking for the finish every visit and sometimes things can go wrong like playing cannons etc which can be his Achilles heel. Paddy Clarke has won the last 6 he's turned up for.
Verdict: PADDY CLARKE
Tommy Mooney (Trainor's Bar Camlough) v Chris McKeown (Forester's A)
Another one sided look about this one.
Tommy Mooney has been in sensational form this season for Trainor's. He has dragged this Camlough pub from the bottom leagues right to flying high in the Premier Division. He has been known to move his position on the team sheet to avoid some of the heavier hitters but that is just good tactical knowledge from the South Armagh sides captain. His tactics on the table are right up there with the best. His excellent potting is not far away from back in his glory days with Corrinshego. Tommy Mooney had won 11 league games in a row but has lost 2 of his last 4 (excluding Tues night's game).
Chris McKeown got had a brilliant win against top Premier Division Player Barry Murphy in the last round. The captain of Forester's A has done a great job with his team and has turned them into a decent Division 1 side. McKeown is a smart player and is capable of covering pockets and doing the dirty work to win a frame. He is a good potter and is having a good season so there's no reason for McKeown to go into this with some optimism.
Verdict: TOMMY MOONEY
Kieran McMahon (CWC A) v Niall Connolly (Dan's A)
Joint individuals holder Kieran McMahon must have had all the superlatives used up on him at this stage. The top snooker player has a bulging trophy cabinet and his collection is far from finished. Tactically brilliant, outrageous potter, cueball control like most can only dream of and knows his way round a finish. We could go on and on. He has lost more games this season than he would have expected. His attacking style can leave him open to a tactical player if his big finishes goes astray. Kieran McMahon has won 9 of his last 10 league games and 12 wins from 16.
Niall Connolly has been a bit of a surprise package this season. He has held his own in a largely under achieving Dan's A team. Connolly doesn't shy away from a pot that is one thing for sure. He has always played exciting attacking pool and now he's added composure and confidence in his ability. He is probably just not ready to take over the pool world yet. His 6 defeats (excluding Tues nights game) means he isnt the finished product just yet. Connolly has a good cue action and is taking out the big finishes. He beat Seamus McGeoghegan and Noel Bradley in previous rounds.
Verdict; KIERAN McMAHON
Bernie Magee (CWC A) v Philip Murphy (Hustlers)
Could there be a bigger contrast in styles?
Bernie Magee has made his name as a master tactician but he is far from a one trick pony. Magee rolled back the years when he was in devastating form to emerge from his venue victorious in the previous rounds. Magee is the original Wiley old fox. Crafty, intelligent and cunning. Although these skills will always make him exceptionally hard to beat, it's his improved potting and cue ball control that is making him one of the top Premier Division scorers this season. Magee has lost 3 of his last 4 games but had previously won 7 in a row.
Philip Murphy was enduring a horrendous season until the 1st rounds of the individuals where he finally turned his season around. Philip is another ultra attacking player. The talent has always been there. Something has just clicked for him and now he is finishing games. He is an outstanding potter and his new found confidence means he is a real force to be reckoned with. Murphy beat Michael Green and Michael Teggart in the previous rounds. He has won 4 from his last 6 games.
Verdict: BERNIE MAGEE
Charlie Broughton (Orchard Bar) v Harvey Lavelle
Both Charlie Broughton has won both his league games against CWC A while Harvey Lavelle has won both his games v Orchard bar.
Charlie Broughton has had a stop start season for Orchard Bar and his absence has been to the detriment to his team. He has a fantastic win rate and winning both his games against CWC A shows he's a big game player. He plays attacking pool but can dig in when needed. He has good shot selection and knows the patterns to make finishes look easy.
Harvey Lavelle has seen it, done it and worn the t-shirt. There's nothing in the top level he hasn't won and is the current pair champion. Lavelle has been criticized in the path for his negative play. He obviously sees this as this as one of his strong points. Lavelle had won 9 of his last 10 including 7 wins in a row but a shock defeat against Trainor's ended his impressive run. A break finish against Bears a few weeks ago shows his attacking threat and his all round game mean only a player on form will beat Harvey Lavelle.
Verdict: HARVEY LAVELLE
Ryan O'Hare (Dan's) v Robbie Loughran (Nifty Fifty)
Ryan O'Hare hasn't played a great deal for Dan's this season. He lost last time out in Bears but generally he has been reliable on the odd occasion he has been available. He is a super potter but has little to know tactical ability. He can out pot the best of them and going for big finishes is the only way he plays.
Robbie Loughran won't want to get bogged down in tactical battles either. His record is fairly decent as the last 32 surprise package aims to shock to Newry Pool again. He will be the 1st to admit he got a good draw last time and will be moving up in class now. Loughran is a decent potter so this always gives him a chance.
Verdict: RYAN O'HARE
Damien Flanagan (McGuigan's B) v Stevie Teggart (CWC A)
Damien Flanagan had a good win over steady Premier Division cueist Giby Vettiankal in the last round. Flanagan was a season Premier Division player himself until McGuigan's reformed themselves in Division 1. He is having an excellent season and will be in confident mood. He smart player who can play a tactical game and can take out a finish too. He likes to play for 2 shots and can be deadly when he gets them.
Stevie Teggart will be dissaoiinted to have lost in Bears during the week. He's not likely to dwell on it too long though. Teggart has a trophy cabinet to match a lot of the top players. His slow tactical approach can be difficult to play against. The South Armagh player thinks safety first and likes to get 2 shots before going for a finish. One of the best potters in the game he's always one players want to avoid.
Verdict: STEVIE TEGGART
Pat Brady (CWC A) v Jamie Fletcher (Boyds)
Neither Pat Brady or Jamie Fletcher has met a Premier Division player in the previous rounds
Pat Brady will need little introduction. Current league champion, current Pairs Champion, current joint Individuals holder and a cup threw in for good measure. Did we mention he has a 100% winning league record. His only defeat came in the Divisional cup where he was 'Dished'. Shot selection is 2nd to none. Incredible potter, master tactician, nerves of steel, the superlatives just go on and on.
Jamie Fletcher is just at the start of what could be a promising pool career. He is a talented player and being a Fletcher then the tactical side of the game will come natural to him. Beating the tactical John McMurray in the previous round proves is no dozer in that department. The young Boyds star has a good record this season which may give him a glimmer of hope.
Verdict: PAT BRADY
Conor McQuaid (St. Monnina) v John Daly (Murphy's Bar)
Massive South Armagh Derby bragging rights at steak here.
Conor McQuaid learnt is trade in South Armagh along side Pat Brady and Stevie Teggart. If you could pick up something from those two then you need to hang up the cue. McQuaid is solid as a rock. The potting is not quite what is used to be but he has no qualms with tying up a game and taking maximum 20mins from a match.
John Daly almost went the whole way up to Christmas with a 100% winning league record and he still has one of the best records in Division 1. Daly is potting for fun. If you leave him a chance with all the ball open then chances are he will clear. Daly can lay a snooker if needed but he wants an open table and will go game.
Verdict: JOHN DALY
Declan Brady (St. Monnina) v John Hogan (McGuigan's B)
Division 1 battle for last 16 spot.
Declan Brady beat Premier Division player Paddy O'Callaghan 2-0 in the first round. O'Callaghan maybe suffering a terrible season but Brady can still feel proud of that result. In Division 1 Declan Brady has been far from unbeatable this season but he has a decent enough record to suggest he will be nobody's pushover. He is a smart player and will cover pockets when required.
John Hogan has had a slightly easier route to the last 32 having not played a Premier Division opponent yet. He has a good win rate this season and definitly won fear another Division 1 opponent. Hogan is a good potter and will take on an adventurous finish. Also he has a strong safety game. Cue ball control can be a bit suspect.
Verdict: JOHN HOGAN
Richard Fletcher (Boyds) v Mervyn Kernaghan (Orchard Bar)
Tactial battle anyone?
Richard Fletcher joins son and team mate Jamie in the last 32. In the good old days the Boyds talisman Richard Fletcher was a regular in the latter stages of the Newry and District individuals. Playing in the lower leagues can't have helped his quest to be mentioned in the same breath as the current top players. Still, Fletcher is having a terrific season and winning is a habit for him. He loves nothing more than a good tactical scrap. There's no doubting his quality in amongst the balls but his knowledge and tactical skills maybe key for Fletcher.
Mervyn Kernaghan completed a full round of Premier Division fixtures winning all 7 league games. It started with a win against Ballyholland and recently ended with defeat to Ballyholland. Kernaghan is a composed player who never plays a rash shot. He will air on the side of caution and you certainly don't get something for nothing from the Orchard Boss. His potting ability is very good and can take out those pressure finishes. Kernaghan beat 2016 winner Seamus McVerry in the previous round so he is going to be brimming with confidence.
Verdict: MERVYN KERNAGHAN