Tyrone's McDonald is a European master

Mickey McDonald has played snooker in lots of interesting places, but the vastly-experienced Dungannon-based Cookstown man breaks new ground early next month when he bids for a top European title in Poland.

McDonald, who played alongside professional star Patrick Wallace as a member of the INF A team which won the League Cup last month in the Kildress Plumbing Supplies East Tyrone League, is one of the two Northern Ireland representatives bidding to win the European Masters Championship title in Lublin.

The compeititon is from June 5 to 14 in the massive Sports Hall Globus, a modern centre where 20 top of the range tables are being specially erected.

The lower age limit for the tournament participants is 40 and Mickey is happy to admit he just squeezed into that bracket, securing the qualifying ticket two weeks ago - just six days before his 40th birthday.

But his qualification credentials on the table were a little more comfortable. Indeed, they were quite impressive.

"There were four people chasing the two places on offer and we played in a round-robin competition at the Fountain Club in Antrim for the privilege of travelling to Poland" explained McDonald, who lives at Cloneen on the Ballygawley Road.

"I was in pretty good form and I won all three matches against Kieran McMahon, Noel Halfpenny and John McIntyre - with former professional McMahon taking the second qualifying place, filling the runners-up spot after I had beaten him 3-1.

"I'm really looking forward to the experience and, while it's not an expenses-paid trip, I'm delighted to say that my employers are generously assisting me by paying for my flights" explained the man who works for HCL as a call centre team manager in Armagh.

McDonald was regarded in the early 90s as the best player in the Cookstown district and, although he never managed to win a ranking tournament, he was reular semi-finalist and once reached the quarter-finals of the Northern Ireland Championship before losing to the eventual champion, Paul Doran from Ballymena.

He dropped out of the snooker scene for twelve years and didn't compete again competitively again under taking part in the local league in 2007.

Now he's set to participate in the biggest tournament of his career, his rivals for the title to include such high-profile senior players as former Embassy World Championship semi-finalist Darren Morgan from Wales.