Two Mid Ulster men represent Northern Ireland in Special International Pool finals

Cookstown Specials pool team members, left, Michael Crawford from Cookstown and Liam Ryan from Ardboe, who reached the finals of the Special International Pool Championships in England playing for Northern Ireland
Cookstown Specials pool team members, left, Michael Crawford from Cookstown and Liam Ryan from Ardboe, who reached the finals of the Special International Pool Championships in England playing for Northern Ireland

Two Mid Ulster men have become the pride of their communities after reaching the finals of the Special International Pool Championships.

Congratulations have poured in for Liam Ryan from Ardboe and Michael Crawford from Cookstown, who represented Northern Ireland in the annual finals in East Yorkshire on April 8.

Pool balls on table

Pool balls on table

Heading off to the international competition with a delegation of 20, the Northern Ireland squad was split into four teams.

Beating off stiff competition in their section, Liam and Michael’s crew - Northern Ireland B2 - defeated the groups from England, Scotland and Wales, before conceding the final to a set from their own shores - Northern Ireland’s B1 team.

The only representatives from Mid Ulster at the event, the ‘inspirational’ pair were delighted to have gotten so far in the competition, before being narrowly defeated in the final with a score of 11-6.

Part of local five-person pool team, the Cookstown Specials, the two men practice their sport every week at the pool table in Superstars Cafe, but more in the run up to events.

Competing in Yorkshire between April 4-9, they played numerous matches throughout the day, and were table-side from 9am to 7pm.

They also compete at competitions held in Coleraine a few times each year, with their entire team.

The International Pool championships, which have been held in Bridlington since 2000, attract around 800 top players from all over the UK and Europe.

Accompanied on the trip to England by family members, Liam and Michael are members of Cookstown Gateway Club - a local group for adults with learning difficulties.

And the two men have been supported in their sport by the group for the past seven years.

“It was great for them to get so far,” said a spokesperson for the club.

“They first started pool in the adult centre years ago, and then it lapsed and the Gateway Club took it on.

“We support them and when they are going away we rely on people for voluntary subscriptions to help take them to the tournaments.”

Asked what the reaction has been to their success, they added: “Unbelievable that they’ve got as far as they have got. They are just on a high at the minute that they got there. It’s fantastic.”