Phil Cassidy wins National Youth Championship!!!
Reflecting the clear depth of talent within the Oxfordshire youth sides, we had 3 players making it to the quarter finals of the u18s event. Two would face each other – Ben Rowland v Hassan Ali. Ben triumphed 3-2 to book his place in the semi final. In the other semi Phil Cassidy had also qualified.
The semi’s were a tense affair. Ben was level with his opponent Leeroy Clarke at 2-2, and taking out a clearance of his opponents break. He looked good, but dropped out of position on his last ball leaving him unable to get on the black. Letting his opponent in, one chance was all he needed and he cleared in one visit to put Ben 3-2 down. Off his own break Ben again looked certain to clear, expertly taking out the clearance, but didn’t get quite enough top spin on his last shot leaving himself snookered on the black. Although he hit the black Leeroy only need asking once and cleared to triumph 4-2. Unlucky Ben – couldn’t have been any closer!
In the other semi though Phil was already putting his stamp on the match at 3-1 up. He eventually wins 4-2 to book his place in the final – the first Oxfordshire youth player ever to get that far!
The final took place after lunch later that day. Phil was to face Leeroy who had knocked out Ben in the previous round. Phil took the first frame with a solid display of potting and positioning. In the second Leeroy was in first from the break, but failed to complete his clearance so let Phil in. If Phil could pinch this first frame he’d be off to a great start. Phil was knocking his balls in comfortably, but failed to land correctly on the black. Was this where it would all go wrong? No – Phil marked his clear determination to win this match by casually slotting the black in the top left hand pocket from an awkward angle. Was Phil going to coast to victory now? But Leeroy wasn’t to be so easily beaten, and took 2 of the next three frames to bring him just 3-2 behind. The next frame became a safety battle after Phil was unable to clear on his first attempt. Leeroy had a key pocket and Phil had only 3 ball left on the table. Phil kept escaping from the snookers and not leaving it easy for Leeroy to develop his awkward balls and take the frame. There were some excellent safety shots played here on both sides. But Phil eventually forced Leeroy into taking the clearance on from a tricky starting position, hoping to clear the key pocket and get his own chance. However Lerroy did a great job and didn’t allow Phil another shot. All of a sudden it is 3-3 and its coming down to a deciding frame. Phil steps up to break and the balls spread everywhere. Is he going to break and dish the decider? But the black doesn’t go… and then Phil has disturbed the black off his final red and is perfect on it to the middle pocket. He slots it in to be come Youth National Champion. Well played Phil!!
Under 23s & Ladies Singles
Rhys Freemire made it to the semi finals of the under 23s singles, where he was playing John McCallister, a name he knew well from back in his youth days. John triumphed 4-2 and went on to win the title.
Nicki Hoskins made it to the quarter finals of the ladies event, where she played Emma Cunningham, who is a former World Rules European and World Champion. Emma was to triumph 3-1, but Nicki had made a decent account of herself and can take some sollace in the fact she was also knocked out by the eventual winner.
Oxford Ladies A
This year Oxford Ladies headed to Selsey with high hopes. We had come through the season strongly in second place, only losing to Hampshire Ladies, beating everyone else in our path. After last years semi-final success the team were hungry to make the final, and perhaps clinch a title that has long evaded us.
We charged into action the first evening, beating East London 11-8. Given the strength of this team and its current and ex- England players we were delighted with this result. The following morning we faced Hampshire B. Looking confident we ran out comfortable winners 11-3. At this stage it felt like our hopes of surpassing previous years perforamnces were well founded.
Going into our third match match against Staffordshire Ladies – last year’s winners – we knew we would have to win this to top the group. We took an early lead in the first leg going 5-2 up, and were delighted with this start. However Staffordshire’s experience showed and they didn’t let going behind bother them, and during the second leg they fought back hard. They caught us up at 7-7 and never looked back, ultimately winning 11-8.
The following morning we were playing Bristol, who we had fond memories of our 11-0 victory over a couple of years previously. However it was not to be this year. Oxford ladies looked sluggish (and dare I say it – slightly hungover?) and fell slightly behind at the start of the match and never regained the lead. Although we were staying close to Bristol, the frames we were winning did not look overly convincing (due to opponents rattling blacks or going in-off at the vital moment) and ultimately we lost 11-7. Would this loss prove costly?
Final group game was against Derbyshire. We were determined to get a win to see us into the quarter finals positively, and to make up for the morning’s disappointment. There was a bit of controversy over whether a Derby player was making any attempt to player her own ball out of a snooker, but after the fuss had died down we still knocked in a comfortable win 11-5.
Our mistake against Bristol had cost us in terms of who we would face in the quarter finals. Qualifying in third, we had drawn our nemsis – Hampshire ladies. The team that knocked us out in the semi last year and National champions 2 out of the last 3 years. This team would take some beating, but Oxfordshire felt up to the task. However the early frames just didn’t seem to go our way. Despite looking like we were good to win at least half of the frames in the first set we actually only triumphed in one, due to unlikely in-off blacks or in one case potting the black accidentally when coming out of a snooker. Against a team like Hampshire you simply can’t afford to do that, and the match continued in that vein. Final score 11-3 to Hampshire.
Special mention to Kate Challen who topped the ladies rankings finishing on 67%, closely followed by Carrie Francome and Lucy walker who also put in excellent performances