LAST August the Nation celebrated the victory of the Republic of Ireland Masters team who for the very first time won the Home Nations at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds.
The fact that Dylan Rees from the Youghal CYMS club potted the winning balls in both the semi-final and the final was the icing on the cake.
Unfortunately this week the Home International Billiards and Snooker Federation announced the cancellation of this year’s championships which meant an Irish defence of the title disappointingly could not materialise.
The HIBSF Secretary Eugene O’Connor explained the reasoning.
“The HIBSF and the Northern Snooker Centre can together jointly announce that we have taken the difficult decision to cancel this year’s HIBSF Festival previously scheduled to take place in August. The safety of our players, officials and supporters is our paramount consideration and therefore it has been decided that this step is a necessary one to minimise risk and provide certainty to everybody involved with the tournament.
"Although there are still three months between now and the scheduled staging of the event, both parties are also mindful that it is extremely difficult for players and officials to make travel and accommodation arrangements and potentially incur non-refundable costs at this uncertain time.
"The HIBSF and NSC remain fully committed to the Home Internationals and have already agreed that we will be returning in August 2021."
Ireland has had so many great successes down through the years at Senior and Junior levels with integral performances from the likes of Greg Casey, Ross Bulman and of course Aaron Hill, but up until 2019 after four decades of Home International snooker the over 40s had never lifted the trophy.
Last summer when the news filtered home from Yorkshire that the Irish masters team of Dylan Rees, John Torpey, Mark Tuite and Michael Judge had defeated the red hot favourites England in the semi-final and then went on to beat Wales in the decider the excitement level went through the roof.
Match-winner and Cork-based snooker player Dylan Rees is hugely disappointed.
“I am gutted really that they are cancelled and no matter whatever teams RIBSA were going to send to Leeds it is always a very special tournament with a ton of history and tradition behind it. I am well aware there are far more serious things going on all around us with this pandemic and it might sound a little selfish, but I can assure you there are players all over this island who are itching to get back into competitive snooker.
"Having said that it would have been be great to travel back to the Northern Centre in Leeds as the defending Nation this August, but as sport in general is slowly coming back it was probably the most sensible decision that the HIBSF could make at this very uncertain time for all our families, friends and our work colleagues."
Rees was definitely the star of the show in Leeds last year when he got a very late call up to the Irish team when the current ‘Legends Tour’ number one ranked player Rodney Goggins was unable to go.
Big shoes to fill indeed for Rees, but he more than justified the RIBSA selection potting the winning blue in the semi-final and then an incredible match in the final sealed the deal for the Irish team.
Rees who is a member of the RIBSA Council and a player very involved in disability snooker as a player in the restricted sight section and an organiser who hopes to bring Ireland its very first World Disability Irish Open championships to Ireland in 2021.
“By a mile winning the Home Nations is the highlight of my snooker career and it was a championship that I will never ever forget. The support from back home was excellent and as a team we really worked well together.
"I don’t think I have ever been that nervous at a snooker table before and the miracle of actually potting that ball will live with me forever, but there is no denying it we are very disappointed not to go back this year, but what can you do, it is what it is and all we can do is keep practicing as much as possible, follow the guidelines set out by the Government and the HSE and stay safe."
Back in August 2012, when the event was being hosted by the Pontins Holiday Group, a certain Greg Casey was the key player for Team A for the Republic of Ireland.
They eventually went on to lift the Prince of Wales Shield in style, showing the Irish dominance of the event, but also letting people know that there is young Irish talent that will make an impact on the game in the Home Nations, with the EBSA for European challenges and with the IBSF and World Snooker for global events.
Nowadays the expectation has gone so high, so fast down to the success of Aaron Hill and the top level players like Greg Casey, Ross Bulman and Noel Landers may just make people think this game is easy!
The players at the top work extremely hard to stay in the top level and the re-opening of the game in ‘Phase 3’ cannot come soon enough for those who live on the baize.