The Sporty Stuff 2021 Champions Cup

Once again the IPA break new ground with a live televised tournament on Sporty Stuff Tv (Sky 437 Freesat 250 and on line via sportystuff.tv), to be played over an eight week period, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays from 3.00pm to 5.30pm and again at 10.00pm to find one winner per day to go through to the next stage – and with betting available on the day from all of the bigger “household name” bookmakers, with Sporty Stuff supported by Bet365, Corals, Ladbrokes, William Hill, Paddy Power, Betfred, Betfair and Unibet, and with all the action in glorious HD.

The very best pool players from the IPA Tour will go head to head with lesser ranked challengers in a sport we can all recognise from our local pub or club, and with a 30 second shot-clock the action will be fast and furious, with all options on the table, from tactical knowhow to clearances from the break, and played to the only official recognised rule set for the sport – blackball.

With the players and the TV audience all deserving the very best equipment available, the IPA will be using the industry leading Strachan 861 cloth with Aramith Pro-Cup balls, so no excuses needed at the end of the day.

Week one sees a heady mix of talents as IPA Number One Liam Dunster takes on the highly regarded Ross Fernie in an all-Scottish opener that may not be as straight forward as it looks on paper. Liam will surely start a fairly short priced favourite and is a tough nut to crack, but Ross is a ruthless potter given the opportunities and there is no guarantee a race to six will play to Liam’s strengths. A tough one to call if I’m honest but the experience in front of the TV cameras just might give Liam the edge, but certainly a match I can’t wait to watch.

Next on we have Daniel Wylie against Conor Treacy, Scotland versus England and a chance for both to show their abilities in front of a watching audience. Daniel is currently ranked
41 on the amateur ranking list while Conor sits in 40th spot in the professional ranks, but don’t make the mistake of thinking there is a massive amount between the top amateurs working their way through the rankings and the professionals, that could be a huge error of judgement. I doubt there will be much between the pair with the first few frames looking crucial under the lights, and one where lady luck may well have a big say in the end result.

On the Tuesday we kick-off with the 17th ranked professional Andy Blurton against Andy Croasdale (ranked seven on the amateur list), an interesting line-up and one to watch for those looking to take up the sport. Andy B can be meticulous when needed and although he likes a tactical frame, can pot when he wants to, though it will be interesting to see how he copes with the 30 second shot clock. Andy C has been on the pool circuit for more years than he would like me to mention, and may, just may, be the better suited of the two when it comes to time constraints.

Second on we have Nathan Davies against Jamie Clarke , yet more evidence of just how tough this tournament will be to win, and a draw I doubt either one of them will relish. Nathan is one of the top amateurs and seems sure to turn professional sooner rather than later, while Jamie holds a 25 ranking as a professional and is the more experienced of the two. Once again I feel the first few frames will prove crucial and if Jamie can get away to a flyer that could be all he needs, while Nathan can blow hot and cold on occasion, and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the pressure of live TV coverage.

Wednesday rounds off our first week of coverage and we have our first female entry as Vicki Lomax takes on Robert Stephen and make no mistake, this is not a mismatch by any means. Robert Stephen is an ex professional snooker player from Glasgow who has been playing pool for four years now and is ranked number 5 in Scotland. He seems to have adjusted well to the smaller table and he should certainly be a force to reckon with here. Vicki is one of the top female players and currently ranked number two behind Emma Cunningham, and if Robert underestimates her abilities, he could be in trouble. A regular semi-finalist and finalist on the IPA tour, Vicki is one of the most improved players around in the Ladies section and will be relishing the chance to pit her wits here in a game that can only boost the ladies profile in the sport of pool.

Lastly for now we have what I see as potentially the match-up of the first week as Alex O’Donoghue and Gavin Robinson go head to head. Both are not only capable of winning today, but of going deep in to this prestigious tournament with the luck of the draw, and in a race to six I see this as a genuine 50/50 chance at this stage. Alex is perhaps the more measured of the two, but Gavin is learning all the time and has recent experience in front of the camera which could be priceless, though once again this is a a draw I am pretty certain both would have preferred to avoid at this stage.

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