WILL it or won’t it go ahead this October?
That is the question on everyone’s mind ahead of the ninth snooker International Challenge Cup due to be staged at the Pot Black Snooker Club in Cookstown, county Tyrone.
Speaking to The Echo the Chairman of the ICC Robert Murphy said it is too early to make that call just now.
“With everything that has gone on it is so difficult to make a decision as the country now looks like it is on a turn for the best and snooker will most likely re-open in Phase 3 of the Governments plans to lead out us out of this terrible time for families, friends and sport.
“I personally would love to say yes, here we go, but we have a bit of time on our hands and for the travelling Nations it is important that we get a decision out as soon as possible, but there is no guarantee that either France or Scotland will want to travel to Cookstown either.
“The tournament is a real gem and we love it to bits, but there is so much to consider and to fair to the Northern Ireland organisers, they are working hard too and want the event to go ahead.
“We have lost most of our competitive calendar, the Home Nations and other tournaments as the season has been decimated and if we could have the International Challenge Cup it would give everyone involved a real lift.”
Defending champions the Republic of Ireland going for their fourth consecutive victory following wins in Edinburgh, Montpellier and Youghal have been littered with Cork cue-men like Adrian Landers, Brendan and Christopher Cooney, Greg Casey and Noel Landers and with players like Murphy and Mick Judge it has become increasingly obvious that Ireland are the team to beat.
The last time Ireland didn’t win the ICC was in 2016 when the event was played in the Pot Black club in Cookstown when a strong Northern Ireland side led by Patrick Wallace played brilliantly and brushed all opposition aside.
Northern Ireland also victorious in Belgium are the only other side to lift the cup and with that in mind one can understand why the host Nation are so keen to get the tournament played with home advantage.
The International Challenge Cup consisting of teams with eleven players, five seniors, five over 40s and one junior player compete in one frame shoot out matches with all players taking each other on except for the juniors who play each other in a separate section with their points per frame win contributing to the overall score with the Nation with the most points winning.
“The format is brilliant and last year we added a day to take the pressure off everyone because it really is full on snooker every day.
“Predominately, the four Nations involved are the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, France and Scotland with Belgium having played once and they will come in again at some stage.
“Everyone involved with the International Challenge Cup are fully committed to the tournament and without a doubt the frustration even at this stage of not knowing if it will go ahead or not has a knock-on effect.
“The hotel, the venue, travel arrangements and transfers and the social side of the event including the opening ceremony and restaurant arrangements are all up in the air at the moment.
“Personally, I am struggling at this stage to see it going ahead, I want it to and other people in the committee are wondering what the outcome eventually will be, be we will not give up hope.
“The Cork players are the backbone of this tournament and with snooker alive and well in Cork we will again look to bring some Cork talent on to the squad.
“Youghal’s Brendan Cooney has been involved in all of the International Challenge Cup tournaments so far and has been an inspirational figure in the squad and top-class players like Greg Casey and Noel Landers have very much been a part of the success of the tournament contributing to six Republic of Ireland wins and please God going forward they will be there again, but a decision of the event going ahead or not will be made very shortly.”
Meanwhile, another great event the annual Celtic Junior Challenge was discussed during a RIBSA committee meeting the governing body reviewed the ongoing COVID-19 situations and looked at the overall picture of a return to the baize at all levels.
The Republic of Ireland Billiards & Snooker Association and the Welsh Snooker Association have jointly announced that they have taken the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Celtic Junior Challenge with was originally scheduled to take place in August.
National Coach PJ Nolan said the safety of the players is paramount.
“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 is still three months between now and the scheduled staging of the event of the Celtic Junior Challenge, both the Republic of Ireland and Welsh governing bodies are also mindful that it is extremely difficult for players and officials to make travel and because of the number of players and parents who would of travelled it would be at this stage difficult to organise, but both associations are fully committed to the Celtic Challenge returning in June / July 2021.”