Once again the great and the good of the pool world assembled at the Hilton hotel, this time in Warwick and with the European Open and Amateur crowns up for grabs in a season that has seen some high quality pool, and a mixture of different winners, implying everyone was in with a chance – except me of course.
First things first and the line up once again included raiders from around the world of pool as word slowly gets out about the prestige of the IPA tour in comparison to its so called competitors, with stand out stars such as South African superstar Sandile Madlala and France’s “darling” Christophe Lambert lining up against the usual suspects in Gareth Potts, Craig Marsh, Adam Davis, Gareth Hibbott, Lee Clough etc while in the amateur ranks, Jon McAllister was looking for a pretty much unprecedented hat trick after winning at Bradford and Glasgow. With the tables in place and the new double elimination format giving everyone a second chance the stage was set for a contest worthy of its title and we weren’t going to be let down!
Friday afternoon and evening went remarkably smoothly considering the numbers of players involved and I would certainly like to take this opportunity to thank the majority of the players for being patient when necessary as those of us on the top table did our best to keep up with the schedule, and although it will never be perfect, we can be as proud as we ever can be about the way things went. Saturday morning was a little less chaotic (that may have been less players or may have been a few hangovers, who can tell?), and the matches went on thick and fast with the quality as astounding as it is in every tournament as the players seem to a layman like me to just get better and better. Without naming names (I don’t want to get lynched), it seemed that as soon as I felt that any one player was in top form, they went out in their next match as once again the players proved that they ALL have exceptional ability, and that each and every once could win if they are in top form and the balls roll in their favour.
In the amateur tournament the usual suspects looked good early doors but the semi final included some new faces (well, to me at least) in Billy Stirling, Daniel Walker, Andrew Hughes, and Zak Shepherd, with the first two going through to the final, leaving a new name in the record books. Both players clearly gave their all with nerves and skills
equally balanced before Dan Walker finally triumphed 6-3 though I have to be honest enough to say that the scoreline was possibly not a true reflection and it could have been a lot closer.
As for the European Open, classic is a word bandied about all too often but the tournament rolled on with shocks plenty, starting with number one seed Gareth Potts losing to an on-fire Neil Raybone 7-6 in an absolute classic after leading 6- 1, leaving us with a last four line up of Craig Marsh v Neil Raybone and Ronan McCarthy v Andy MacDonald which looked as strong and talented a line up as you could possibly wish for? Cutting a long story short, Craig saw off Neil and Andy beat Ronan (in a bit of a marathon), before we all sat down to watch the long awaited final along with all of those tuned in to the live stream (which will be free for the next tour event form Liverpool by the way, so get the beers in and sit down and enjoy).
After an understandably nervy start by both players Craig possibly settled down the better of the two and turned up the pressure at exactly the right time before running out an 8-6 winner in a fight of a final that looked sure to go down to the wire with most of us discussing a 7-7 finale. Not to be for IPA Secretary Andy on this occasion but fair to say this was a very welcome return to his best form that bodes well for the future, though the ever popular Craig Marsh is the man whose name is now engraved in pool history as European Open Champion 2013 – well done Craig!
IPA Press Officer