Tuesday night saw the first meeting of the new look CWC A and double quadruple winners TJ's A. And what a match it was.
This was the re-arranged Vegas Cup tie and a good crowd turned up in TJ's to witness a classic match.
TJ's A went into this game with just a single defeat in the past 2 years while this newly assembled CWC side boast a 100% winning start to the season.
TJ's A captain Laurence McAlinden knew he was facing mission impossible when he put himself 1st against Kieran McMahon. McMahon has won all his games so far and tagged on another on Tuesday night to put CWC 1-0 up.
Matches like these are usually decided by a moment of magic or a slice of luck. CWC captain Pat Brady made the bold move to play himself 2nd. He had played virtually all his games 6th so far this season. Opponent Raymie McKenna always played 2nd. Brady's thoughts were crystal clear. We will be leading 2-0 and will have TJ's on the ropes.
Only problem is - it helps when you get a shot.
Raymie McKenna broke and all the yellows were on. A few decent shots later McKenna was left with a black along the cushion and 'boom' he rolled it home for a stunning 'break finish' and big Pats gamble playing 2nd failed miserably and it was 1-1.
Jack Courtney has had his troubles with Harvey Lavelle in the past. Newly married Courtney beat his nemesis in the latter stages of the singles last year and now it's becoming a habit. Lavelle looked to be closing in but landed low on the black. A thin cut looked good but the black hung and Courtney played some very good shots to claim the pocket and then the frame. 2-1 TJ's.
Manny Byrne was white hot favourite to beat Martin McClelland when a cluster of his yellows where over the bottom pocket. Some how Byrne managed to miss a plant with the game at his mercy. McClelland potted and laid a tight snooker behind his last red. Byrne gave away 2 shots and CWC were level at 2 apiece.
Paddy Tavey had a great chance of putting CWC in front for the 2nd time. He was on for the 'brush' when he hit his 2nd last red (which was hanging) to thick and didn't come down far enough for his last ball. Tavey left himself a tricky double and when he missed Paul 'Skippy' Morgan came in and made him pay dear. TJ's A 3-2 up.
Tristy Byrne threw in a few terrific pots and his final ball to go round the angles and leave a straight black was sublime considering the pressure he was under. Paul 'Bunty' O'Callaghan could never have imagined he wouldn't get back to the table but Tristy Byrne is a different class and it was now 4-2 TJ's A.
If there's ever player you want for a big game it's Cathal Phelan. Make no bones about it - Cathal Phelan is the one reason Whitecross will very probably be relegated. He is that good and that important. Eugene McDermott is a long servant to TJ's and the pool league in general.
Cathal Phelan got a good tight snooker on McDermott. The latter was only a whisker away from hitting his Red ball but it only takes a whisker to hand Phelan a frame. 5 yellows and a straight black saw CWC back it but trailing 4-3.
All that had gone before was just a warm up for the next frame. So many times on this blog we have singled Niall McVerry out for very high praise - mostly without foundation or reason. What we saw Thursday night was something to savour from one of the best single ball potters in the Newry Pool League. His finish was one of the best you will see all year.
McVerry got a snooker but Stevie Noade played a nice delicate shot down the cushion and he looked safe and favourite for the frame. McVerry decided now was the time to strike. I stunning full length red started the end for Noade. Another nice long pot into the same pocket left McVerry with very little angle to get back down the table. He was able to punch the ball across just enough to leave a shot on his 2nd last red with the white tight on the cushion. Full table McVerry stroked it home to leave another tricky red into a blind pocket. The red was close to the middle and it was fired to the top pocket and in doing so played a brilliant cannon on the black to free it from Noades' yellow. One more neat controlled shot on the black squared up the match and now it was a one frame shoot out for a place in round 2 of the Vegas Cup.
Stevie Teggart v Tucker Hughes. Fair play to Tucker Hughes for playing the game after the past week or so he's been through. Stevie Teggart is fresh from a good home Nations tournament in Scotland and was always favourite for TJ's A.
It was a cagey frame but Tucker looked to be in after Teggart failed to take out the yellows. Tucker took on a long red which went wide of the bottom pocket. There was a red over the other bottom pocket which he turned down. Teggart came in potted two easy yellows but landed bad on the black. Only a double which he took and resulted in hanging the black. Tucker was in big trouble now. He potted the hanging ball and screwed up for the other red on the cushion. He missed that one and Teggart rolled in the hanging black to send TJ's A into the next round.
It's back to the drawing board for Pat Brady and Harvey Lavelle. It was a fantastic match and we can't wait till they meet again in a few weeks in the league.