Well those few months flew by, despite the majority of the best pool players eagerly awaiting the IPA Grand Finals Isle of Man Festival of Pool from Wednesday the 15th of November to the conclusion on Sunday the 19th, so more of a marathon than a sprint.
All the top players will be there as you would expect, but thanks to the continued help of www.visitisleofman.com we have added events with flyers, random pick doubles and three person teams, last person standing, and more on the opening two days to give the players a bit of fun and reward them for their support throughout 2023.
With local players joining in as they always do (thankyou) we have a sell-out of close to 200 players in total which is simply amazing but in return, they have an increased prize fund and enhanced ranking points, so there is plenty to play for.
On Friday the “heavy” action starts (though knowing pool players, no quarter will be given, even in the fun events), and there are plenty of trophies up for grabs.
If you shop around you will find a bookie or two betting on some of the events, so it is my duty to try (try is the word) to point you in the right direction, though in my defence, these are the best pool players in the World – and there will be amateurs in the line-up from the Isles of Man who I haven’t even heard of looking to take a scalp on their way through the weekend.
Wish me luck – I’ll certainly need it.
Grand Final Open
By definition we are starting with perhaps the toughest of them all – though hopefully the prices will match accordingly. Naturally the professionals are where I will be looking for the winner, but they will have to get past a few banana skins on the way, with the top amateurs looking to make their mark, in some cases before being invited to turn professional next season. The ranking often help to point the way, but this year they are as tight as I can ever remember with Marc Farnsworth heading World Champion Clint I’Anson by just two points, and another two back to Ross Fernie who sits in third. All three have to sit on any shortlist for these events but I am going elsewhere for a change, and offering up “the kiss of death” to Liam Dunster – sorry Liam. A former World Champion, his style is perhaps more meticulous than some, but beauty is as beauty does, and no-one can argue that it doesn’t work for him. I would need a crystal ball on steroids to even attempt to work out his path through the contest, but we can pretty much guaranteed he will be fully prepared and raring to go, making him as good a suggestion as anyone. For those looking for a bigger price, local hero David Addinall will have all the support he can ask for, while Andy Croasdale is getting back to his very best and will be a danger to them all of he turns up with his “A” game.
Grand Final Professional
No unknown quantities to deal with here, but every player here is capable of beating the others on their day making this almost as much of a minefield. Those who have backed Marc Farnsworth blindly over the last few years may well be quids in, and he remains a top player who you really want to have on your side. I suspect his name is the one that all the other players look to avoid when the draw is made, he carries that much respect, though he has a tough starter with the winner of Robert Stephen and Liam Dunster his first match – ouch. If he overcomes that battle the draw opens up ahead of him for a while though that is the big question – if. Mark Boyle is another player to take very seriously, though he needs to get past Wade Morley to progress to the last 16, while one at a bigger price to at least consider is Craig Marsh who must be feeling confident after his recent success in Malta.
Grand Final Amateur
Where do we start with a plethora of unknown entries, many of them the Isle of Man’s finest? Once again common sense suggests I rely on the latest rankings, and that leads me to Kian Monaghan and Lee Shepherd, who are clear of their rivals in first and second spot. Both look likely to go well but I am going to take a chance on “The Butcher” also known as Jake Dylan-Newlove. I have witnessed him take out some sublime finishes in the past, and if he can keep his focus from the first frame to the last in each match, which is a big ask at this level, I can see him going mighty close if he gets the run of the balls and the luck of the draw.
Grand Final Elite Ladies
As I mention every timer, the Ladies game goes from strength to strength from year to year, and the standard is just so much better now with no easy matches throughout. Plenty have stepped up to the plate and put in the practice needed to stay at the top, but perhaps none more so than Deb Burchell. Hopefully she won’t get too upset if I reveal that I try to avoid her on the rare occasions when she loses, but that is the attitude that winners display, and something you want on your side at this level. Add tons of ability to a winning mentality and you have a genuine force in Ladies pool who seems sure to go well here, once again.
Grand Final Ladies Open
The Ladies Open sees a larger field with more chances of slip-ups by the top players on the way, and although would not be in the slightest bit surprised if Deb Burchell won this as well, where is the fun in that from my point of view. She has a bye into the second round here but that may not be such a good thing with her opponent in round two having more table time, and for that reason alone I will look elsewhere. Ashley Bird would be the first to tell you that she doesn’t win as many tournaments as she should, but perhaps this will be her chance to chalk one up and go on from there. When she is playing well she is as good as anyone, and as an alternative to the more obvious, I think she has every chance of a bold showing.
Grand Final Ladies Amateur
Lastly for this particular weekend, who wins the Ladies Amateur I hear you ask – how would I know you hear me reply. This may be the toughest to call of them all with a closely matched field and if I had a choice I doubt I would make a call. Local Helen Sanderson could improve for the home support she seems sure to receive and she can go well, but Yvonne Ewing is narrowly preferred. She has to play the winner of Keira Whitcombe and Clare Biddle in her first match but if she gets through that she has every chance of going all the way.
So now you know my thoughts you have no excuse not to tune in and watch from 3.00pm Friday afternoon onwards on the IPA Youtube channel or on Billardtv for those with that luxury – and if this has whet your appetite there are still a few places free on the next tour (12th to 14th January in Gosforth) and you can join in via the shop at www.ipapool.com