The long awaited Four Nations Billiards International took place in Celbridge Snooker Club, Co. Kildare on the weekend of 3rd and 4th December after a three year gap as the covid-19 pandemic put a hold on billiards activity. So it was a welcome return by all players and officials alike and the weekend finished with England as worthy winners once again to make it four successive outright wins on the bounce.
Saturday’s schedule began with a bang with the highlight of the first session was England’s Gary Norman producing the first century break of the event with 120 in his impressive win against Republic of Ireland’s Aonghus McAnally as well as fellow English teammate Chris Mitchell who had five separate breaks of 74, 60, 83, 59 and 74 unfinished in his win over Robert McCrum of Republic of Ireland. Chris went on to get a break of 101 in the next session against Northern Ireland’s Paul Lindsay that ended in a draw in the 2x150s format but put England in a very strong position leading the table by 5 points ahead of the Republic of Ireland.
England were flying and the best was still to come as Rob Hall finally compiled a century break of 135 along with a 67 against Austria’s Christian Pleschko and Rob’s teammate Peter Sheehan had good breaks of 92, 61 and 94 unfinished in his win against Patrick Stegmeier of Austria. Peter continued to perform strongly against John Kehoe of the Republic of Ireland in the timed format with breaks of 186 and 87 winning by 604 to 330 with John playing really well despite losing comprehensively. Rob Hall also continued to dominate as he won his last game of the day over multiple Irish Champion Wayne Doyle with further breaks of 77, 51 and 81 to make sure England finish the day with a resounding 12 point lead ahead of the chasing pack. England was 29, Northern Ireland 17, Republic of Ireland 16 and Austria 10.
The English team started the Sunday schedule where they finished on Saturday with maximum points in the first session that included Rob Hall maintaining his rich vein of form with another 100 plus break going on to beat Republic of Ireland’s Aonghus McAnally. It was becoming clear by that stage that England were not going to be caught in first place and therefore would be keeping the four nations trophy for a further year so the attention of the drama in the event was the 2nd place spot that was to be fought out between Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland whereas Austria were playing for pride.
The men playing the best for Northern Ireland was their two best ranked players Christian Kirk and Kenny Campbell whereas Wayne Doyle claimed the most wins for the Republic of Ireland as did Austria’s Martin Schmidt, but despite all that England were unstoppable from start to finish as they claimed 4 points out of 6 against Northern Ireland in session 2 in the timed format as both Rob Hall and Peter Sheehan kept raising the high standard of billiards play as Rob added breaks of 83, 159, 208 and 92 unfinished winning by 700 – 173 against Paul Lindsay while Peter was just as devastating when he won his encounter with reigning Northern Irish Champion Christian Kirk by 967 – 154 that witnessed Peter claim further breaks of 136, 197, 187 and the highest break of the event of 218.
Rob and Peter share a further three century breaks between them in the next session as England could not be caught and could relax and enjoy the conclusion of the tournament as teammate Nathan Mann got in the act with a century break of his own of 133 in his win against Stewart Gordon of Northern Ireland in the timed format. The final session of the event saw Republic of Ireland take six points out of a possible twelve with 4 against England that saw Wayne Doyle beat probably the player of the tournament Peter Sheehan in the 2x150s format with breaks of 57, 69 and 82. The Republic also got five points out of 6 in the same session against Austria which meant they claimed the runners up spot ahead of Northern Ireland by just two points but in truth second place could have went either way and Austria played a big part in this event finishing with 18 points.
The final points tally after two days play was:
- England – 58
- Republic of Ireland – 35
- Northern Ireland – 33
- Austria – 18
Tournament Director Clive Scott presented the trophy to England team captain Rob Hall in what was a fantastic display of billiards by a worthy winning English team. There was also good performances from Republic of Ireland newcomers Anthony O’Flaherty and Jason Dowling as well as Stewart Gordon, Alistair McDonald and Paul Lindsay from Northern Ireland and Dean Manders of the successful England team.
Thanks also to assistant tournament director Brendan Devlin and to host venue Celbridge Snooker Club. We will now look forward to next year’s tournament which will be held in Vienna, Austria where England will look to make it 5 on the trot of four nations triumphs and continue their dominance in this special event.