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Friday, 5 May 2017

Thoughts On The Game

So this is it then, the 2016/17 season is now confined to the history books & Mark Selby has rode off into the sunset with the sports most coveted trophy,but what about the season that was? Well here are some of my thoughts on what we've seen over the last 12 months.

Looking back Monday night on the previous 17 days of snooker action,I couldn't help but think how this world championship had been a perfect snapshot of what we had seen over the entire season,some really great moments,but on the whole some pretty uninspiring stuff.

We get told time and time again that the standard is getting higher a,but the evidence simply does not exist to support this.Of course with so many tournaments now,it would be impossible for every one of them to be a classic,I mean not every "Super Sunday" in the Premiership produces a goalfest,but I do feel overall and  perhaps the first time in the modern era,the standard at the top of the game has probably regressed slightly.

Evidence of this I think is clear in the number of players over 40 who are still competing at the business end of tournaments.This is in stark contrast to what we saw,say 15 years ago.Some of this can be attributed to the fact that in days past the players who got to that age maybe didn't have same practice motivation & now with constant tournament play that this is not such an issue,but you can't say ,wonderful and all as their victories were to see,that Mark King & Anthony Hamilton are better players now then they were in their 20's or 30's.

Another thing we must start to come to terms with is that the days of the "class of 92" are  slowly coming to an end,This may seem a strange thing to say in a season where Ronnie won a 7th masters & Higgins won two big early season tournaments,before getting within 3 frames of a world title,but bear with me while I explain.

Ok firstly these two greats on their day can still produce snooker that's better than anyone still playing the game,but I think where the problem lies with them now is that they can't be guaranteed to produce it when its needed most.Ronnie for example started very poorly in the UK final against Selby & even with a late rally couldn't claw his way back.The same can apply to his lacklustre middle session against Ding in the worlds.That would not have happened an O'Sullivan in his prime Yes he did win the Masters,but I don't think anyone can say he was at his best there either.The same applies to Higgins.who lets be honest, at his height, would not have lost a world final from 10-4 up against anybody.

I  have no doubt these two will once again be challenging for trophies next season,but I think the chances of them adding to their World title hauls are getting slimmer.

At the other end of the spectrum we have a number of young players who started to make waves this year and its from this generation that the next great champions may come.Most notably among these players yet to reach 20,we had the Chinese trio of Yan Bingtao,Zhao Xintong & Zhou Yuelong..These three will no doubt be winning tournaments in the coming years as possibly also will Jackson Page from Wales who at 15 is the current world under 18 champ and showed he is the real deal,by making the third round of the Welsh Open.

Sadly things don't look as healthy for snooker here in the Rep Of Ireland.This years marked the 20th anniversary of that memorable night when Ken Doherty lifted the world crown and its hard to see that success been repeated anytime soon.At 45 Fergal O'Brien is admirably holding back the tide as long as he can to remain our highest ranked player,but with Ken dropping off the tour,before been awarded a two year legends wild card,the next highest ranked Irishman is Josh Boileau.

Now Josh is a talent,but in the first year of the two year tour card he obtained by winning the European Under 21 title,endured a tough season.That said ,a victory over Shaun Murphy in Wales and a wonderful fightback from 7-2 down to 9-9 against subsequent Crucible qualifier Gary Wilson,showed this lad can play.Hopefully a good start to this season can ease his demotion fears and allow him to establish himself properly on the tour for many years to come.The future of Irish snooker may for the foreseeable future ,rest in his hands.

Finally though lets talk about the man currently head & shoulders above his peers at the top of our game.It says a lot about what we have come to expect from Mark Selby,that when the fightback begun in the final ,there was a certain inevitability about him going on to lift the title. We have seen time and again with him  that he has an extraordinary will to win, that coupled with a superb big match temperament and an unflinching self belief have helped establish him as the greatest champion of his generation.

With everything I have said above,its hard to see where his challengers for the games big prizes are going to come from in the next few years.This of course will lead to the inevitable debates about where Selby stands on the all time list. I have said before that I don't think he is near the level of the likes of Davis,Hendry,O'Sullivan or Higgins & nothing that happened in the last fortnight has changed my mind in that. Suppose the basis for my argument on this is that the true greats,in this case the four i have listed above,would have been multiple world titles in any era.I'm not yet sure that can be said about Selby.

The fact remains though that he is the preeminent force of his generation  and it will be up to the others to step up to the mark to challenge him next season

Anyway that's it from me .I may look in more detail in the coming weeks at those ranked immediately below Selby in the ranking & what they need to do for the coming season to narrow the gap,but for now thats it.Best of luck to all competing in Q school next week.Ciao.


Monday, 1 May 2017

World Final Selby Reigns Supreme

Mark Selby is the champion of the world again after beating John Higgins 18-15 to claim the title for a third time in four years at the Crucible this evening.

In doing so he joins a very exclusive club of back to back winners here that also includes Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry & Ronnie O'Sullivan and has now firmly established himself as the greatest champion of his generation.

Starting today at only 10-7 behind having struggled for much of yesterday,the parallels with the 2014 final against Ronnie were there to see and the vital third session was almost a carbon copy of three years ago.Here  Selby switched into full suffocation mode & this coupled with some superb breaks when the chances occurred saw him turn that 10-7 deficit into a 13-11 lead at the end of a shortened afternoon session.

Into the evening and any hopes of a revival  for Higgins seemed remote as Selby stretched further ahead  to lead 16-12 at the interval.To his credit Higgins dug deep like the great champion he is,claiming the next three to get within one at 16-15,but when Selby knocked in another brilliant pressure red in the next to start a nerveless break of 131,the writing was on the wall and he duly did the necessary in the next to seal the 18-15 win.

As a result of this Selby has virtually secured his place at the top of the world rankings for the foreseeable future & when we consider that this was his fifth title of a season that also include another UK crown,this may be as close to total dominance as we're ever likely to see again.

For Higgins,well he will be devastated that he let a 10-4 lead,with an opponent seemingly all at sea, slip through his fingers. Looking at it now its hard not to draw comparisons between him and his fellow 41 yr old Wladimir Klitschko who at the weekend lost in a dramatic fight against Anthony Joshua.These were truly great champions,giving it their all,but ultimately time was shown to have caught up with both of them.

As for Selby people will now  be talking about him in terms of been alongside the likes of Hendry ,Davis,O'Sullivan & Higgins in the all time list. Personally I don't think it does ,but rather than rain on his parade tonight I will blog about it later in the week.One thing that is for sure is that he has a depth of belief  that makes him very hard to beat when he he up for it and he sets the target all must aim for when the new season starts in about a months time!!

Finally thank you to everyone who read this blog during the championship,I hope you found it informative & enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.Don't forget I can also be found on Twitter @thegreenbaize.