By Chris Gill
Rickerby Cup semi-final @ Fleetwood Hesketh – Banks B v Churchtown Cons C
The first Rickerby Cup semi-final was played last week between Banks B and Churchtown Cons C with the Con club going through to the final after beating Banks 5-1. Churchtown, who finished 8th in the 3rd division this year, nearly made the prefect start when going close to winning both of the opening frames. Churchtowns Richard Butterworth managed to beat Andy Griffiths 80-64, to give the Con club a one frame advantage. This one frame advantage was nearly doubled when John McCabe, sitting some 15 points clear of John Gearie, looked likely to claim a frame victory. But John Gearie managed to take the last three remaining colours in one visit, much to the delight of his team, so levelling the frames up, some 13 points behind on the aggregate scores. Unfortunately that would be the closest the teams would be for the remainder of the night as Churchtown rattled off the middle pairings to go 3-1 up and some 112 points to the good as well. Peter Milford eventually beat Bob Ashcroft after a prolonged safety battle coming out a 97-57 winner. But it was Brian Sheil who made the biggest impact in these middle pairings, and the main reason for such a difference in the score line after he beat John E Gearie 97-14. This gave Banks a right mountain to climb going into the last pairings, something that Mike Marsh and Dave Turner tried in vain to do but it was not to be. Joe Perberdy and Richard Hughes managed to turn their team’s big advantage into a 5-1 and 182 point victory as the match slipped away from the 2nd division sides hands. They now await the winners of this week’s match between Bretherton A of the 2nd division and Scarisbrick C of the third.
JJ Birch Final @ Argyle LTC – Mike Marsh v Chris Rae
This year’s winner of the 2nd division open is Mike Marsh of Banks after he beat Chris Rae of Les Dodd’s 2-0. Both frames were keenly contested, though the art of playing safe may be lost on the two young guns as both players went for their pots given any opportunity. The opening frame saw Chris open up a twenty point lead after he made two quick fire contributions in the teens whilst Mike watched on. As the frame rolled along it was obvious that this would be more of a shoot-out than any tactical battle and luck would maybe play a part in the story too. Mike found himself some 15 points behind Chris with just the blue pink and black left on, and was a little lucky to get away with a bit of a yahoo, leaving Chris a tricky safety shot when he left the blue right next to the pink. Chris didn’t play a great shot and left the blue on for Mike who then took the pink and black for a 57-42 opening frame win. The second frame carried on from where we left off in the opener as both players seemed to want to pot their way to success without wondering what he left if he missed. This time it was Mike who stole a march on his opponent opening up with a 21 break almost straight from the off. The twenty point gap lasted until the colours with Chris needing all the colours to level the frame score up. After taking all of the colours he finished on the black which was in a tough position, 8 inches up the side rail and tight to the cushion. But in keeping with the ‘go for anything’ theme on the night Chris attempted to drop the black into the corner pocket, which he missed leaving the black right over the hole for Mike to pot and so claim the win and title of the 2015 JJ Birch winner .
Marshall Handicap semi-finals @ Mere Brow – Gareth Hibbott v Peter Haslam & Jamie Wane v Phil Horan
Gareth Hibbott will play Phil Horan in the Marshall Handicap final, in what will be our show piece match at this year’s Snooker League’s Presentation night. Both players had to work hard to reach the final but ultimately are grateful to have done so. Phil Horan, who plays for 3rd division side Birkdale Cons C, could only watch on in the opening frame as Jamie Wane made a 33 break with almost his first visit to the table. The 35 points head-start that Jamie was giving to Phil had been wiped out before Phil had even potted a ball. But that break seemed to spur Phil on as he started to pot a few good balls himself and gained a 20 point lead over his opponent. Jamie started missing balls, failing in his attempts to get out of any snookers and going in-off as the snooker gods took to the lower division player blessing him with good fortune while tripping the Tarleton player up. When Phil potted the final pink ball, it left the final score at 89-36 to the Birkdale player, bearing in mind that Jamie had started off with a 33 break, it showed how strange a frame it was for Jamie.
Just as in the opening frame Jamie went on the offensive, out potting his 3rd division opponent to take the lead in the frame after the opening six or seven reds had disappeared. Phil was probably thinking that the match was going to go to a deciding frame when Jamie was left an easy yellow into the corner pocket when 13 points behind. But Jamie missed the yellow and Phil had a chance to get back into the frame taking the yellow and then laying a good snooker on the green. Jamie missed the green, and it just got worse from then on in for the Young lad from Tarleton as he kept on missing balls and going in-off time and again. The final nail in the coffin was when Phil slotted home a good brown to blue to seal an improbable 2-0 victory taking in mind the opening salvos from Jamie in the beginning of each of the two frames.
In the other semi-final Gareth Hibbott took the opening frame against Peter Haslam in confident style, 79-35, helped with contributions of 27 & 31 in doing so. Peter didn’t get much say in that frame as he could only watch on as his 32 handicap start was wiped away almost instantly. But the second frame brought a change of fortune for the Tarleton player as he opened up a very healthy 51 point lead before Gareth could do anything about it. But Gareth being Gareth he did get back into it, making a break of 36 along the way but could only hope for a reprieve when leaving Peter the last red with any choice of colour to go for. Strangely Peter took the blue rather than the pink leaving him the yellow ball with the rest where had he took the pink he would have had his hand on the table and a much easier chance on the yellow. Also by potting blue it meant he was only 26 points ahead of Gareth with 27 left on. This made a big difference when Peter then missed the yellow and Gareth ended up taking all the colours to win the frame by the 1 point, 73-72. Gareth now goes forward to the final looking for his 7th Marshall handicap win, as Phil Horan makes his debut in any sort of final, hoping to add his name to a long list of names who have managed to win this competition.
Lucas Open semi-finals @ Fleetwood Hesketh – Andy Bolton v Andy O’Hara & John Greenwood v Les Sullivan
This year’s Lucas Open finalists are Andy O’Hara and Les Sullivan after both players came through their semi-final encounters a 3-1 winner. Andy O’Hara eventually got the better of Andy Bolton as both players were guilty of missed chances and missed opportunities something we would not expect from these first division players. Andy O’Hara raced to an opening frame 81-24 win making the most of the chances he was left as Tarletons Andy Bolton could do nothing to stop him. Andy Bolton then replied by taking the 2nd frame, though he was very grateful for the near 40 points in fouls his opponent gave him in trying to get out of a self-inflicted snooker. The third frame produced the most drama as both players struggled to put the final black ball away to take a one frame advantage in this best of 5 match. Andy Bolton had the first chance, though he didn’t look confident of potting the black whilst using the rest, and duly missed it. Andy O’Hara over-cut the resulting missed black of his opponent, leaving it safe on the back cushion. Andy Bolton then missed placed his own safety shot putting distance between the balls but leaving the black very close to the corner pocket. Andy O’Hara missed his second chance only to leave it back on for Andy Bolton to have a go at. But once again the black ball was missed as both players looked confused as why they couldn’t pot the final ball. Eventually Mere Brows Andy O’Hara potted the black to take the frame away from Andy and just the one frame away from victory. The 4th frame was over in a flash as Andy O’Hara went pot mad, eventually running out a 61 to 1 winner booking him into the Lucas final.
Birkdale’s Les Sullivan beat Mere Brows John Greenwood 3-1 to prove there is life still in this wily ole dog yet. Les took the first frame after starting off with an opening break of 20 and kept that distance between him and John until the final colours. John replied by taking the second frame quiet comfortably 68-18, making some very good pots along the way. But Les fought back by taking the third frame with some cunning safety play and great individual pots. To be fair John potted some good opening reds himself but just couldn’t make it count when continuing to miss the resulting coloured ball again and again. Eventually an error of judgement by John on one of his safety shots gave Les the chance of taking the frame, which he did when potting the final pink ball to take the frame 59-49. The fourth frame also followed a similar pattern to the previous frames as John opened up with some good long pots only to either fail to gain good position on a colour or missing his chance all together. The frame went along with both players potting some very good balls but again it’s all about taking your chance when it comes and Les did so more than John in the whole match. When Les potted the final blue in the fourth frame it meant that John needed a snooker and the pink and black to take the match into a deciding frame. Ultimately he would fail to do so thus losing the frame and match to his opponent 49-70.
Les will be hoping to match his fellow team player Phil Fitzgerald in winning one of the cup individual awards this year, Fitzy won the Veterans trophy earlier in the month, making it a cup double for the lads from Birkdale. Andy O’Hara also has a chance of making it a personal double now he has made the Lucas final as he partners Paul Connor in the Birch Pairs semi-final soon as well. Both players will be hoping to put their name on the cup for the first time, and the honour of becoming the Lucas Open champion for 2015.
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