Joe Swail who is playing in the event for the first time after having been professional for almost the last 30 years.
This Friday night at Dalys bar snooker room will see the start of 56 competitors compete over the weekend to win the third Nibsa ranking event of the season 'The European Qualifier'.
The winner of this prestigious event will have their flights and accommodation paid for to take part in the European amateur championships in Albufeira, Portugal in March 2020 courtesy of the sponsor which happens to be Dalys bar and bistro.
With 56 entries confirmed it is a smaller field than the previous two years that the Shantallow club has hosted the championship though there is definitely no shortage in quality.
Defending champion Raymond 'Sizzler' Fry from Antrim makes the trip over the Glenshane pass once again in the hope of defending his crown though he has been handed a very tough opener as he awaits the winner of Fergal Quinn or Alastair Wilson (Ballyclare).
Fergal has already been on the winner's podium in Dalys this season as he took down the under 21 ranking tournament held their recently and Alastair has been one of the top amateurs in the country for many years going back to his junior days and only as recently as last season was beaten by Raymond in the final of the first ranking event.
As part of the main headline states, the clash off the first round is that off Joe Swail (Belfast) versus Shea Moore (Reservoir, Derry/Londonderry).
Joe has been on the professional circuit for nearly the last thirty years until as recently as May when he unfortunately lost his tour card and his return to the amateur ranks seen him lose out early in his first amateur tournament in Limavady over a month ago. Joe makes the trip to Dalys hoping to make amends for that, but he has been drawn against the current back to back Northern Ireland under 21 champion and number 12 seed in Shea. This game is sure to draw a crowd on Saturday afternoon as the two cueists attempt to reach the second round.
Talking about those that know what it's like to play on the main stage in world snooker, that man Patrick Wallace was runner up in this two years ago.
Patrick has been playing competitive snooker for decades and it's great to see the hunger for the game that he has. With that hunger comes the reason for him being at number one in the Nibsa rankings as he continues to put in fantastic performances at each and every tournament. Could we see a rematch of that epic 2001 world championship quarter final match between Patrick and Joe which Joe ran out a 13-11 winner? (Sorry Patrick Joe said he would buy the pints if that was mentioned).
Patrick will play the winner of Paul Keenan (Tracys) or Paul Loughran (Omagh) on Friday night in the second round as the two lads battle for the chance of playing the number one seed.
Current Northern Ireland national champion Declan Lavery (Antrim) comes into this after having his first taste of the big time having participated in the Northern Ireland Open recently where he lost out to an inspired Stephen Maguire 4-0 in the first round. Declan lost out in the final of ranking event two this season to Patrick so he will be looking for that first place again in this one and he starts his campaign on Saturday afternoon when he will play the winner of Paul Lowry (Belfast) or Billy Moore (Ballymoney).
Hopes behind Brady
Number four seed for this tournament is host club player Stephen Brady. Stephen's ranking has come on the back of reaching the quarter finals of the national championships at the end of last season and that combined with a final appearance in Antrim in the first tournament of the season and semi-final appearance in the Limavady classic sees him sit high up as he looks to climb even higher.
Stephen's opponent in the last 32 this weekend will be either Paschal McKenna or Peter Logue who have been drawn together in what is an all Nwasa derby match as both players represent 3C'S Limavady.
Dermot McGlinchey (Castlederg) is also a former professional with multiple national championships to his name and like Patrick and Joe his hunger for the game will never die, so much so that the three lads have been nicknamed 'the golden oldies'. Whilst Dermot may not have been in the winner's circle, in a while it would be wrong to rule him out at taking the prize on offer as he most certainly still has the game to trouble anyone evidenced by his high ranking. Dermot awaits the winner of John Fry (Antrim) or former national championship runner up Brian Milne (Magherafelt) in a game that is very close to call.
Darren Dornan (Drumaness) comes into this tournament as number six seed and also as the runner up to Declan Lavery in the national championship. Some may remember Darren from many years ago (2003) when he beat the late Alex Higgins in the Millennium Forum in a tournament that seen many Northern Irish and Irish professionals take part. The first game for Darren this weekend is either Kevin McGlinchey (Aoh) or John Robinson (Antrim) who will fight it out early on Saturday for the chance to play Darren.
Local snooker enthusiast Simon Cooke (Aoh) comes into this tournament as number seven seed on the back of some consistent performances that included a run to the quarter finals of the recent Limavady classic were he lost out to Patrick Wallace. First up for Cookie will be either Liam Kelly (Antrim) or Joe Hamilton.
Anto Heaney (Belfast) makes a return to the scene where he beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in an exhibition game back in May this year. If the 'wee man' displays the form from that night over the course of the weekend it will take quite the performance to stop him in his tracks. Shane Loughran (Omagh) or Sean Doyle will be Anto's first opponent as Anto has also received a bye into the second round.
Left handed Lurgan man Paul Sweeney, who is known for his quick style of play, is number nine seed and he will take on the current Nwasa junior individual champion Gareth Strain (Aoh) in the last 64 in what is sure to be an interesting game as both players styles could not be more different.
All to play for
Last season's semi-finalist Rory Mallon (Cookstown) is number 10 seed and first up for Rory in this season's renewal is former Nwasa Junior individual championship runner up Stephen Heaney (Aoh). Omagh's Adrian Ballantyne comes into the tournament number 11 seed and he will face Dermot Loughran (Dungannon) for a place in the last 32.
We will skip to the number 13 seed next as we already have mentioned number 12 seed Shea Moore, number 13 is another Nwasa member in Christopher Clifford (Glendermott CC). Christopher had a cracking season in 2018/19 as not only was he involved in a cracker match with Shea Moore in the national under 21 final which he was runner up he also reached the quarter finals of the national championship playing some top notch snooker before losing out to the eventual champion, Christopher's opponent in the last 64 this weekend is another up and coming cueist in Darragh Arkinson (Omagh).
Last season's runner up in this event Jason O Hagan (Magherafelt) is number 14 seed and he has been handed a very tough assignment in Sean Gray (Ballymoney). Sean knows what it takes to win this tournament having done so a few years ago when his home club Rafters hosted the tournament.
Another host club member Peter Doherty enters the tournament at Number 15 seed and can be a force to be reckoned with when on his game.
Peter is in fine form so far this season having reached the semi-finals in the first tournament of the season in Antrim and is also playing some good stuff in the local league were he sits in second place in the individual leaderboard. Peter Reilly (Cookstown) will be a tough nut to crack for Doherty as he looks to reach the last 32.
The last player to be seeded is Connell Doherty who is number 1. Connell reached the final of the Belfast ranking event last season before losing out to Patrick Wallace. This season Connell was the player to beat Joe Swail in the first round in Limavady which is always sure to give you that little bit of confidence. First up for Connell in Daly's will be another young up and coming local player in Shane Carlin (Aoh).
Nwasa senior champion Gregory Cooke (3C'S Limavady) takes on a man that has reached that final on no less than four occasions Seamus Cusack. This is sure to be another one of those cracking contests with the winner being hard to call. Whoever does win that game is fancied to go on and do well in the rest of the tournament as they are both very tough players to beat.
Belfast's Stephen Ferguson takes on Crumlin's John Fox in the last 64 and Ferguson would need to be on the ball against the Crumlin man as it says it all in his surname really as he is crafty as a fox on the baize.
Drumaness player Darren Oldroyd clashes with Ballymoney's Ryan Murphy for a place in the last 32. Both players have represented Nibsa on the international scene so this is another one of those tough games to call a winner.
Gary Arkinson (Omagh) takes on Ruairi Gill (Tracys) and if Gary was to win this it is possible he could face his son Darragh in the next round were he to get past Christopher Clifford. Joe Porter is another player to represent the host club and he face's Marco Orru (Auchnacloy). Marco will need to be on the ball as Porter knows these tables like the back of his hand.
Robbie McGuigan (Antrim), fresh from competing in the Northern Ireland Open were he lost out to fellow Ninsa member Patrick Wallace 4-0, will take on Davy Clifford (Glendermott CC). This is an ultra tough task for Davy as young Robbie has set a blistering pace in the under 21 ranking tournaments this season as he leads the way at number 1 having won the first two junior tournaments off the season.
Enda O Hagan (Magherafelt) will take on Ryan McQuillan (Antrim) in what should be another fascinating match to watch as both players have had some top results in recent seasons. In last season's tournament Ryan knocked in a fantastic century in his first frame of his first round match against Rory Mallon though still lost out as Rory battled back to claim the win.
The last match to be mentioned is that of former national championship quarter finalist Davy Louden (Ballymoney) against Jamie Gardiner (Donemana). These two lads have already met this season with Jamie having won that one so safe to say Davy will be looking for a touch of revenge.
Who will prevail?
With all the matches previewed it is difficult to say who will reach the final this year. In the top half of the draw it is very hard to look past number one seed Patrick Wallace on getting to that stage although we could see Wallace v Swail in the semi-finals. If both players do get there they will have had some tough matches to overcome.
In the bottom half it looks like a semi-final battle between Declan Lavery and Raymond Fry though do not rule out local player Peter Doherty reaching the latter stages as he certainly has the game to do so. Come down this weekend to find out for yourselves if you are out and about.
Full draw Top Half
(1) Patrick Wallace v Bye
Paul Keenan v Paul Loughran
Gregory Cooke v Seamus Cusack
Shane Carlin v (16) Connell Doherty
(9) Paul Sweeney v Gareth Strain
Stephen Ferguson v John Fox
Shane Loughran v Sean Doyle
(8) Anto Heaney v Bye
(5) Dermot McGlinchey v Bye
John Fry v Brian Milne
Darren Oldroyd v Ryan Murphy
Joe Swail v (12) Shea Moore
(13) Christopher Clifford v Darragh Arkinson
Gary Arkinson v Ruairi Gill
Paschal McKenna v Peter Logue
(4) Stephen Brady v Bye
Full draw Bottom Half
(3) Declan Lavery v Bye
Paul Lowry v Billy Moore
Joe Porter v Marco Orru
Sean Gray v (14) Jason O Hagan
(11) Adrian Ballantyne v Dermot Loughran
Robbie McGuigan v Davy Clifford
Kevin McGlinchey v John Robinson
(6) Darren Dornan v Bye
(7) Simon Cooke v Bye
Liam Kelly v Joe Hamilton
Enda O Hagan v Ryan McQuillan
Stephen Heaney v (10) Rory Mallon
(15) Peter Doherty v Peter Reilly
Davy Louden v Jamie Gardiner
Fergal Quinn v Alastair Wilson
(2) Raymond Fry v Bye
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