When Patrick Wallace etched his name last year in annals of snooker history as seven times winner of the Northern Ireland title, he surpassed Jack McNally’s record. Now he’s done it again - and not because he’s won the crown for an amazing eighth time.
Actually, McNally - who first won the title in 1931 - went on the win the championship five more times and they all came consecutively, albeit not for five years in a row. How’s that? It was wartime and the competition wasn’t played every year. McNally was champion in 1938, 39, 41, 44 and 45.
And, when former professional Wallace twice came three behind in Cookstown to defeat Jordan Brown 10-8 last weekend, he was champion for a fifth time on the spin.
The 2016 championship, sponsored by RTM Mortgage Services and Chris Morgan Properties, attracted an entry of 83 players to the plush surroundings of the Pot Black Club over three weekends, Wallace winning his fifth successive crown by beating Antrim’s Jordan Brown 10-8 in a closely fought final.
Wallace recovered from a 6-3 deficit to win seven of the remaining nine frames and thus record his eighth overall win in the event.
Brown, himself champion in 2008 and 2009, won three in a row to lead 5-2 and cleared with 57 in the last of the opening session on pink to again lead by three at the interval.
At this point, Brown looked set to reverse the result of the 2013 and 2015 finals between the pair but the ex-professional from Dungannon responded with breaks of 78 and 94 in the evening to level at 6-6 and finished strongly from 8-8, runs of 89 and 107 in the last two sweeping him to the title.
Club manager Celestine Loughran presented the trophies and stated that Pot Black had been delighted to host the local game’s blue riband event for the second year in a row.
The newly-crowned champion thanked the club for their hospitality, hard-working referees Stanley McKeown and Desi Stinson, tournament organiser Joe McGonnell and sponsors, and commiserated with a vanquished opponent.
Wallace, inspiration behind hosting the event in Mid-Ulster, said he’s delighted to retain the trophy in what had been his toughest ever final.
Alastair Wilson had given the champion a scare in the quarter-finals when he forced a decider, having trailed 3-0 and 4-2, but Wallace won it 81-23 to progress to the semi-finals, where he beat Darren Dornan 6-3, having led 5-0 with breaks of 79, 112 and 75 to earn a final berth.
Brown also won 6-3 in the semis, against 1997 champion Johnny Nelson, making a 101 break in the process. The runner-up had been impressive in the quarters against club-mate Ryan McQuillan, scoring a 5-0 whitewash with the aid of runs of 94, 87 and 88.
Victory completed a remarkable season for Wallace, who won four of the six ranking events and lost 5-4 to Brown in the other two finals to top the end-of-season rankings for the third straight year.
He has stretched his run of consecutive finals to ten in NIBSA events, having also won the last four tournaments of the 2014/15 season, surely another record, you’d imagine.
Antrim cueman Brown had consolation of securing NIBSA’s nomination for professional Q-school in May, having comfortably finished the season as N.Ireland number two.
Patrick Wallace beat Alastair Wilson 5(60, 125)-4(54, 62)
Darren Dornan beat Mark Jackson 5(66)-0
Johnny Nelson beat Davy Louden 5(80)-1
Jordan Brown beat Ryan McQuillan 5(94, 87, 88)-0
Wallace bt Dornan 6(79, 112, 75, 63)-3
Brown bt Nelson 6(101, 69)-3
Final: Wallace bt Brown 10(61, 78, 94, 69, 89, 107)-8(67, 60, 80, 57)