Rodney right on cue
Tyrone win ahead of Masters clash
Wexford's Rodney Goggins made the perfect finish to the 2018 season as he returned home with very different emotions from a year ago when he fulfilled a long-held ambition by winning the Starplan Barry McNamee Memorial Trophy at the Pot Black Club in Cookstown in Co. Tyrone with a 3-1 win over Antrim professional Jordan Brown in the final.
A total of 20 players assembled from all over Ireland, north and south, for the 16th staging of the tournament.
Visibly moved by his triumph, Goggins, the 1999 world Under-21 champion, showed remarkable character to bounce back from the huge disappointment of potting the winning ball in 2017, only to go in-off to lose the final to Joe Swail.
Goggins was clearly delighted to have finally got his hands on the beautiful crystal trophy which bears his late friend's name.
'I've been coming up here for years trying to win this tournament. It really means an awful lot to me because I had some great times with Barry over the years and I'm really thrilled to get my name on his trophy,' he said.
Considering that Ken Doherty won the inaugural event in 2003 and, given the quality of the players who have travelled north every year since, Goggins is amazingly only the second player from the Republic of Ireland to win the title.
The 14 wins in between were shared between Jordan Brown, with two triumphs, and Joe Swail, Patrick Wallace and Mark Allen with four titles each.
Rodney beat Michael Judge 3-2 in the quarter-final, Paul Currie 3-2 in the semi-final, and Jordan Brown 3-1 in the final.
And he now has his sights set on making a big impact at the Senior Irish Masters next weekend.
One of snooker's most iconic venues, Goff's in Kildare, will once again play host to a major tournament when the event is held from Friday to Sunday, January 4 to 6.
Legends of the game Jimmy White, Ken Doherty, Dennis Taylor, Joe Johnson and Willie Thorne will be joined by Senior world champion Aaron Canavan, wild card Rodney, and Northern Ireland's Patrick Wallace to make up the eight-man field that will compete for the title and the Alex Higgins trophy.
Wallace earned his place by winning a world Seniors qualifier at Celbridge Snooker Club in November, beating Goggins 3-2 in the semi-final.
The Wexford man bounced straight back from that disappointment to win the R.I.B.S.A. qualifier the very next weekend at The Roadstone Club in Dublin, earning a match-up with 1997 world champion Doherty in the process.
All four quarter-finals are scheduled for Saturday, January 5, with Doherty versus Goggins first up in the afternoon, followed by the clash of the 1985 and 1986 world champions, Taylor and Johnson.
In the evening, Wallace faces a re-match with Canavan of their 2018 Senior world final, which the player from Jersey won on a re-spotted black. That game is followed by White against Thorne in a repeat of the 1986 Irish Masters final, which saw 'The Whirlwind' collect his second consecutive win in the tournament.
The victors will progress to the semi-finals on Sunday afternoon, with the final taking place that same night.
Tickets are still available for the gala dinner with all the players on the evening of Friday, January 4, as well as all the sessions of the snooker itself, with prices starting from €10. See ticketmaster.ie for details.
New Ross Standard