Northern Ireland Open: Sure To Go To A Name But The Value Is In The ‘Dogs’5 min read
The Northern Ireland Open, the second leg of the 2019 Home Nation Series, has attracted every major name in the game of Snooker. Additionally many of the games past masters are en-route to Belfast seeking to re-establish themselves. Amongst this number are Marco Fu and Ding Junhui.
They probably have little chance despite the ‘best of 7’frame format in the first four rounds which always leaves room for potential for upsets. No, Home Nations tournaments always go to ‘big name players’ and that narrows it down to a dozen. Amongst those Mark Allen has to be of interest before his home crowd. But we have concluded that before and he’s never delivered.
Neil Robertson is the only player to have won more than one Home Nations competition and he beat some outstanding players in making the final of the weekend’s Champion of Champions competition. So he’s another interesting candidate. However, the opening round matches have their fair share of opportunities and make more appeal at this juncture.
Slessor can go two-from-two against Hang
Elliott Slessor had a fantastic run in this competition two years ago making the semi-finals and beating Ronnie O’Sullivan along the way. He must have a real fondness for this event and he won’t be too fearful of playing Li Hang on Monday morning either, a rival he is 13/10 to beat. Given this pair have only met once before, in a 2019 summertime International Championship qualifier when Slessor beat Hang 6-2, I like the ‘dog’ at the odds-against price.
Draw a line under Jones against Dott
Naturally ‘course form’ does not account for too much in snooker but if it did you’d take on Graeme Dott all day and all night in Belfast. He’s played this NI Open event in each of three years it has been staged here and been eliminated in the opening round every time. In fact his overall profile in Home Nations events is massively disappointing and at odds of 1/4 to beat Duane Jones in a Tuesday morning confrontation, I have to take him on.
26-year-old Jones was a semi-finalist in last year’s German Open beating Ding Junhui and Jack Lisowski so he should not be fazed by taking on the waning former world champion.
Confidence in Dale
The third underdog (according to the betting) to look at is Dominic Dale versus Chinese player Luo Honghao who is almost 30 years his junior. Unquestionably the teenager is a precocious talent but he was a first round casualty in the last two ranking tournaments (winning three frames and conceding 10) and is likely to find Dale bubbling with confidence.
The Welshman did the unthinkable in beating Ronnie O’Sullivan in a World Open qualifier a fortnight ago adding his scalp to that of Ding Junhui who he dispatched from the English Open two weeks beforehand. With a 142 break registered during that competition there can be no dispute he is playing some good stuff and, at odds against for his Tuesday afternoon showdown, should also be backed.
Elliott Slessor to beat Li Hang
Duane Jones to beat Graeme Dott
Dominic Dale to beat Luo Honghao