'Black' magic gives Sota McFall trophy win

THE final of the last team competition of the season in the Ballymena and District Snooker league took place in the Parochial clubrooms on Friday night.

The Robert McFall Memorial trophy was contested between Minnesota A, who finished in third place in Division One, and Fountain Jokers, the champions of Division Two, with the Ballymena side securing the trophy for the second time in three years with a hard fought 5-3 win with no fewer than three frames being decided on the black ball.

The first match saw Minnesota's Brian Hannaway taking on Darrell Brammeld who was receiving a 45 point start on handicap. Despite an early 20 break Brian continued to struggle as he attempted to narrow the gap to his opponent and with 3 reds left the Minnesota man trailed by 35 points and when Darrell potted a red and a black he had all but secured the opening frame for the Antrim side.

Brian took the last 2 reds but only with a brown and a blue instead of the 2 blacks he required and at the colours he found himself 32 points adrift. An in off on the brown ball resulted in Brian conceding the frame.

At the start of frame 2 Brian missed a black off its spot having potted the first 3 reds and although Darrell took a couple of reds Brian had reduced his deficit to 20 points with 3 reds left.

At the last red the Fountain player led by 27 and with Brian unable to get a colour after potting the final red Darrell looked a firm favourite to take the second frame. Brian battled back and he took yellow and green. When Darrell went in off the brown Brian seized his chance and he took brown, blue and pink before rattling the black in the jaws of the corner pocket and being relieved to see the black go safe.

After a short safety exchange Darrell missed a good opportunity to win the frame and Brian punished him by sinking a long black into the yellow pocket to level the match scores.

On the other table Minnesota's Gary Erwin was doing battle with Fountain captain Joe Bingham with the Jokers player receiving a 50 point start.

Joe took a red and a black on his second visit to the table but a loose safety shot left a red sticking out at the end of the pack. Gary potted the red and opened a few more reds from the pack as he made inroads into Joes lead. Gary's break had reached 44 and with no pot on an open red he played an attacking safety shot opening up the remaining reds and leaving Joe with the cue ball a couple of inches from the baulk cushion.

The Jokers player failed to get the white back any further than the blue spot with his safety shot. That turned out to be his last shot in the frame as Gary stepped in with a well constructed 53 break which finished when he missed the green on his way to taking the frame in 2 visits to the table by 97 points to 58

In the second frame a couple of misses from Gary gave Joe the chance to get settled again after being blitzed in the opening frame and by the midpoint of the frame the Antrim man was still holding a healthy 30 point advantage.

Gary, although trailing by 20 points at the colours, sensed he was right back in the frame after potting the baulk colours. A missed pot on a difficult blue from Gary gave Joe the chance to level the overall match score by potting the blue and even though he failed to pot the pink an in off by the Minnesota man ensured the teams would be on level terms at the halfway point in the final.

Rodney McFall was drawn to play Fountain’s Dougie Milligan who was taking the place of talented Jokers youngster Calvin Brammeld who was unavailable for the final.

Rodney set about reducing Dougie’s 50 point start with an early break of 31 but by the halfway mark Dougie had regained the upper hand and had a lead of more than 30 points. Some tight safety play from Rodney forced 3 fouls from his opponent and after the yellow had been potted the Jokers player held a narrow 4 point lead 73-69 Rodney then took green and brown and when Dougie fouled the blue the momentum had shifted to the Ballymena man.

Although Dougie fought back to pot the blue a poor safety shot on the pink presented Rodney with the chance to put Minnesota 3-2 ahead in the match and he made no mistake.

On the other table Minnesota captain David McClintock was pitted against Nathan Curtis. David after making an early 20 break failed to capitalise on several mistakes by his young opponent and found himself 35 points behind with just a couple of reds left. A fluked penultimate red by Nathan saw him open up what looked like an unassailable lead as he eyed up the pink ball.

A careless in off on the pink however offered David a slim lifeline in the frame. David then benefited from a fluke as his safety shot on the last red ended up in a pocket. A cracking black to the yellow pocket and yellow and green saw David fight his way back into the frame.

Although Nathan remained favourite requiring just one of the remaining 4 colours to win the frame his lack of experience - this is only his first year of league snooker - was to prove costly as he allowed David to take the brown and then complete a blue to black clearance to pinch the frame and put Minnesota 4-2 ahead in frames.

The second frame of the McFall/Milligan match saw Rodney content to chip away at Dougies lead by controlling the safety battle and picking off an occasional loose red with a colour. Dougie still maintained a 15 point lead at the final red and although Rodney took the red he failed to add a colour.

Rodney potted the yellow but Dougie took green and brown to leave Rodney needing a snooker. The Minnesota man inadvertently potted the blue which made his task of getting a snooker on the pink extremely difficult as the black ball was tight along the bottom cushion. After several attempts at a snooker Rodney eventually left the pink on for Dougie to pot and he duly kept the Jokers’ hopes alive with a pot to the corner pocket to put the pressure on David McClintock and Nathan Curtis in the final frame of their match.

Nathan had protected his initial starting advantage well in the frame until a great long pot from David opened up the chance for him to get among the reds for the first time in the match. David took the opportunity well and a break of 54 containing 7 reds 2 pinks and 5 blacks edged him ahead at the last red. At the colours Nathan had regained the lead and when he potted the brown to go 12 points clear there was every chance a sudden death deciding frame would be required to decide the destination of the cup.

The game then took another twist as firstly David fluked the blue then Nathan pocketed the cue ball as he went for a difficult pink. Nathan redeemed himself when he executed a fine cut on the pink to a corner pocket to go 7 ahead with only the black remaining and although both players missed reasonably good chances on the black it was eventually David who sank the black to force a re spot.

David won the toss and invited Nathan to have first shot on the black. The Antrim youngster responded by playing an almost perfect safety shot the black coming to rest about an inch from the baulk cushion. Davids return safety shot wasn’t bad but it left a tempter for Nathan and when he missed the pot David secured the Robert McFall Memorial trophy for Minnesota A with a fine cut on the black to the corner pocket.