Teenager Robbie McGuigan defeated Raymond Fry 10-8 in the final to win the 2023 Northern Ireland Amateur Snooker Championship, securing the national title for a third consecutive year.
One of snooker’s most decorated amateur titles, the Championship was first won in 1927 and has been claimed by future professional ranking event winners Mark Allen and Jordan Brown, and two-time world champion Alex Higgins.
In the summer of 2021, aged just 17 years and 11 days, McGuigan became the youngest-ever champion. Still undefeated two editions later, he is only the second player since 1953 to have lifted the trophy three years in a row.
McGuigan won his opening two matches in this year’s event 3-0 and then compiled a break of 104 during a 4-0 success against Hugh Murdock in the last 16.
The 18-year-old dropped his first frame of the tournament in the quarter-finals as he defeated Stephen Brady 5-1 before being taken all the way in a thrilling semi-final match with Declan Hughes. McGuigan registered runs of 115, 78, 67, 58 and 57 as he ousted Hughes 6-5 to reach the final for a fourth year running.
On the other side of the draw, following three semi-final losses in 2019, 2020 and 2021, Fry reached the final for the first time. On his way to the showpiece, the 39-year-old eliminated record eight-time winner Patrick Wallace 5-2 in the last eight and pipped Rab McCullough (134 break) – runner-up in each of the last two years – 6-5 in the last four.
In the final at the Antrim Sports Club, McGuigan won the opening frame with the help of a 51 break, but Fry took the next two for a 2-1 lead. The youngster then went on a four-frame burst with breaks of 100, 54 and 57 to go 5-2 ahead.
Fry stopped that sequence to make it 5-3, but McGuigan hit a 116 clearance to end the first session 6-3 up.
On resumption, Fry reduced the gap with frame 10 (68 break), but McGuigan then won three successive frames (70 break, frame 11) to go one away from the target at 9-4 up. The contest was reignited, though, as Fry mounted a brilliant comeback by stringing together four frames along with breaks of 96, 74 and 64.
However, McGuigan showed great character, finishing with a 102 – his third century break of the final – to complete the three-peat. The Antrim star also finishes the Northern Irish domestic season as the number one ranked player.
McGuigan is set to feature in Leicester over the coming days for the 2023 Q School, as he tries to gain professional status for the first time.
Elsewhere on the Northern Ireland and Billiards Snooker Association (NIBSA) circuit in recent weeks, national titles in the junior categories have also been won.
Joel Connolly – a 15-year-old from Belfast – completed a unique double by claiming both the under-18 and under-21 championships.
In a high-quality final with McGuigan in the under-21s, Connolly defeated the defending champion 5-2 with breaks of 50, 51, 61 and 66. McGuigan had efforts of 52 and a 130 total clearance.
A couple of days later, Connolly also secured the under-18s accolade after a 4-0 final victory against Joel Quinn.
In the under-14 championship, 12-year-old Jude Dalrymple ousted 13-year-old Ryan Dornan in a deciding frame in the final for the title.