The Simonis World Series moved on to its 4th stop of the year, and the beautiful Bangor, just outside Belfast, Northern Ireland, was the scene for the IPA’s finest to do battle, with a hectic weekend of pool on the agenda. The Primacy Sports Bar was the venue, and the players arrived Friday evening with the main table looking superb – and decked out in the powder blue Simonis 681 cloth.
The action opened with the Professional semi-finals, which featured current World Champion Gareth Hibbott, Professional Number One Marc Farnsworth as well as Welsh hotshots Kristian Phillips and Nicky Griffiths. Despite their valiant efforts, the final would be between the two main protagonists and old rivals Hibbott and Farnsworth – with a Sunday afternoon final shootout to look forward to between the pair.
The ever popular Last Man Standing event finished off our opening evening of pool, with Hibbott coming out on top – but those watching were left wondering if this was a sign of things to come over the rest of a packed weekend?
Saturday afternoon we had the eagerly anticipated Team Challenge, where a very strong Northern Ireland Team, featuring the likes of IPA Pro Ronan McCarthy and IPA Tour player Gary Clarke, took on the IPA Professionals plus Amateur qualifier Rob Donkin in a race to 13 frames to take the trophy.
Despite winning the first seven lags and with them the honour of the break, it was the hosts who got going first, racing to a 7-3 lead after the first two rounds of matches. Although the IPA players mounted a comeback and got within a couple of frames at one stage, that was as close as they got, and the home team ran out worthy winners in front of an enthusiastic and appreciative home crowd.
The evening session saw the 8 person, £100 a man event take place featuring a mix of IPA and Irish players. Some absolutely top level pool was played (and on occasion needed to be in such a competitive environment), but we were soon whittled down to the final pair, and it was those two again – Hibbott and Farnsworth – who would play off for the cash, trophy, and a possible psychological edge for Sunday’s grand final.
The match was as good as we all hoped or expected, with a great display of blackball pool at its finest, and dish after the dish the order of the day, and in the end it was Farnsworth who just held the edge, coming through 7-5 – but would that be a factor for the Professional final or an opportunity for some revenge?
The final day’s action saw the Northern Ireland Open, with the local qualifiers mixing it with the IPA contingent, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Hibbott, as we had been accustomed to, took his place in the final, and although the betting expected it to be against his Number One rival, it was Rob Donkin who put in a great performance in the semi-final to see off Farnsworth and give himself a shot at the title. Perhaps the efforts of his semi-final victory took its toll or maybe it was the blistering form of Gareth Hibbott, but either way the World Champion added yet another trophy to his growing collection.
And so we came to the big one – the one everyone wanted to see – a battle of two IPA heavyweights and two of the greatest players on the planet – Hibbott v Farnsworth Part Two, in this best of 5 sets titanic battle.
Hibbott started off like a train and was soon two sets up, and in the third set he had a glorious chance to take the title, but an uncharacteristic error let Farnsworth back in, and in no time at all we were level at two sets all, leaving us all wondering whose nerve would hold out best in the deciding set? After the first four frames we were still all square and so it came to a final frame shootout. Farnsworth had the break and was slight favourite, but this time the pool gods were smiling on Hibbott and he squeezed over the winning line in a truly classic, pulsating final, a truly fitting end to a great weekend of pool.
The final word simply has to be a thankyou to all at the Northern Ireland Pool Association (NIPA) and especially Robert Hawkins for all the hard work and effort that went in to make the event a great success, and for making us all feel so very welcome – we look forward to returning one day soon.
And so the Simonis World Series moves on to Oslo, Norway in two weeks time (2nd – 4th Dec) where once again be will be bringing you all the action via the live stream, featuring a star studded line-up that includes the likes of 2015 World Champion Jack Whelan and 2015 Professional Number one Clint I’Anson – be sure to tune in.