Well we knew the day was coming as the first SportyStuffTV Champions Cup drew to a close this week, as I still awaited my invitation to the TV Studio which I can only assume was lost in the post?
The last few weeks have been a blast, here at the IPA we wanted to put on a show, and although we knew it was going to be hard work, I am certain we have now completed the best pool tournament yet seen on our television screens, despite the steep learning curve we were up against from the start. There is no need for an Oscar’s style “thank you” list, but I ought to at least mention commentators Dan Fairway and Jim Wych, who is recognised as the voice of pool, as well as all the TV production team, presenter Kelly Scott who grew in confidence week on week and is now an honorary member of the IPA Pool team (even if I didn’t get to meet her – just saying), and most of all, the players who can all hold their heads up high after putting on the entertainment, thrills and spills of the sport we all know and love.
On to the pool matches, and it was interesting to see that even the most experienced professionals left in at the semi-final stage were showing some nerves (whether they admit it, or not), with each match starting with a few edgy moments as they got used to the table and learned to relax under the glaring TV lights. Our first match, with a place in the final at stake, saw Gareth Hibbott against Ross Fernie, though thankfully I am not allowed to bet as I had this one all wrong. Both are class acts on and off the table, and Ross will go on to win big tournaments in the years ahead, but experience showed through in the end as Gareth came through 7-5 after a brilliant match that had me glued to the screen. Next up we saw Mark Boyle against Ronan McCarthy in what we all thought would be a tightly fought contest, but pool rarely goes according to plan. Mark raced off in to a close to unassailable lead, looking at one stage as if the whitewash was on, before a mini fightback from Ronan came to an end as Mark recorded a 7-3 victory, and retired for the night awaiting the Sunday final.
In a race to ten and with so much at stake (have you seen the trophy, let alone the £10,000 to the winner?), we all expected a pretty cagey affair, but Mark had topped up on his Weetabix in the morning at a guess, and powered away once again to an early lead. 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 soon flew by and the writing was on the wall for Gareth, though he did win the fourth to close the gap to 3-1. 4-1 became 5-1 and at 6-3 it was surely only a matter of time before the popular Scot took first prize, and he must have felt he already had one hand on the trophy. One thing I have learned over my years following pool is that there are two main differences between the top players and a bad pub player like me – their unswerving belief in their own abilities (and rightly so), and their unwillingness to give up a cause, whatever the odds. At 6-3 down in a race to 10, I may well have given up and wallowed in my own self-pity, blaming the table, the lights, the chalk, a kick, whatever (other than myself), but luckily for us, Gareth is made of sterner stuff. He went off on a frankly insane run of SIX consecutive frames to turn the match on its head and lead 9-6, before the proud Scotsman rediscovered his earlier form to close the gap to 9-8. However, with one of his best breaks of the match in frame 18, Gareth cleared them up and came home the 10-8 victor. It is hard not to turn to the usual “no-one deserved to lose” type comments, especially when that genuinely is the case, but what I can say is I really didn’t want the match to end, it was that tense, that exciting, and that enjoyable – and hopefully, the crowning moment of the first of many such tournaments over the years ahead.
Reflecting on what has been an outstanding event, IPA Chairman Kevin Barton added “First of all we would like to thank Sporty Stuff TV for giving us this opportunity to showcase the talents of these fantastic sportsmen, and what a show they have put on for the audience, especially bearing in mind they have not picked up a cue in anger for well over a year. We would like to thank our partners – Onboard Sportswear, Aramith and Strachan, everyone involved with the production at Live8.tv – they really are the best in the business (and getting better with each event), the Officials (including our expert report writer Sean Trivass), the Commentators (Jim and Dan in particular who make a great team), and not forgetting our hosts – the “Queen of Potts” Kelly Scott and her new on screen husband Marc Pickworth (Holly and Phillip watch out!). It really has been the tournament that has had everything and we look forward to bringing you further great events in the not too distant future.