Northern Ireland’s Declan Brennan won the biggest title of his promising career so far when he defeated all-time great Chris Melling 7-5 in the final to win the 2021 Ultimate Pool Professional Series Event 1 live on FreeSports TV.
A new era of professionalism for small table 8-ball pool was heralded this past weekend as the opening events in the elite 32-player, £144,000 Professional Series took place at a bustling Players Pool and Snooker Lounge in Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Arguably the best player on the planet right now, Brennan lived up to high expectations with a string of sublime results on his way to collecting the £10,000 winner’s purse.
The man from Mayobridge started out with a 7-2 win over Shane Thompson before inflicting revenge for a defeat the previous Monday night in the last 16 of the Apply Mortgages Ultimate Pool Masters by seeing off former World Masters winner Josh Kane by the same result.
Brennan chalked up yet another positive 7-2 scoreline - this time against 2012 world champion John Roe - in the quarter-finals, and was even more relentless as he swept aside 2016 world champion Shaun Chipperfield 7-0 in the last four. It meant that “The Destroyer” had dropped only six frames in four matches on route to the title match.
Despite having not produced his brilliant best, recent Vinny Champions League winner Melling still managed to make his second Ultimate Pool major final.
Perhaps his most memorable win on route came against a gallant four-time world women’s champion Emma Cunningham in the first round where he needed to come back from 5-3 down in order to eventually go through 7-5.
Things didn’t get easier for the two-time world champion and Mosconi Cup winner as he battled hard to dispatch Maltese youngster Dejan Grech 7-5 in the last 16 and former International Masters winner Rob Chilton 7-6 in the quarter-finals. “The Magician” had a more serene passage in the semis as he ended the hopes of the Republic of Ireland’s Stevie Dempsey 7-3.
However, in a high-quality clash of generations in the final, Brennan wrapped up a famous victory in the twelfth frame during which was the pair’s first competitive match against each other.
Elsewhere in the tournament, Shaun Storry defeated former world champion Phil Harrison via a decider in the first round and followed that up with another deciding frame success over tournament favourite and reigning six-time world champion Michael Hill in the last 16. Storry’s run was ended – ironically via a thirteenth frame - in the last eight by former European champion Dempsey.
Australian Ace McCartney is Magic in Pro 2
Australia’s Jake McCartney made an almost perfect start to his stay in the UK and life as a player on the Ultimate Pool Professional Series as he defeated Shane Thompson 6-3 in the final to win Pro Event 2.
Hailing from Ballarat in the state of Victoria, former world team championship winner McCartney has made a huge commitment to the Series by basing himself in the country for the next six months. His decision has already been vindicated as he was rewarded with a maiden live televised major title and a £4,000 payday.
Having narrowly lost in the opening round of Pro Event 1 to world blackball champion Scott Gillespie after breaking dry in the decider and watching his opponent clear up, McCartney showed determination and bounced back in the best way he possibly could during the subsequent second pro event of the weekend.
The newly adopted Stokie began his quest with an impressive 6-1 first round win over the in-form Storry and then dispatched Roe 6-4 in the last 16. In the last eight he needed to keep his nerve in order to oust former back-to-back world junior champion Jordan Church in a decider.
In the last four he comfortably saw off 2019 world finalist Dom Cooney to set up an ashes clash with England’s Shane Thompson.
A predictably close opening half to the encounter ensued, but McCartney established an advantage in the second half and would celebrate success with a few frames to spare.
Thompson was tremendous in getting to the final, dropping only eight frames on route, including a 6-3 elimination of Hill. Whilst he will be disappointed not to take home the trophy, he can console himself with the runner-up prize of £2,000.
You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who begrudges the popular Aussie this title – the most significant individual accolade of his career to date. He overcame several issues travelling over here a couple of weeks ago, and has quickly acclimatised to the foreign table conditions and equipment with long practice sessions at the venue.
Bassoo and Barker are up for the Challenge
Adam Bassoo and Eddie Barker were both event winners from the first-ever Ultimate Pool Challenger Series long-weekend.
Limited to 128 players in each event, this amateur-only circuit runs alongside and on the same weekend and venue as Pro events. With over £90,000 of prize money on offer this season, players earn ranking points for how far they go in each competition. At the end of the year, the top four will earn automatic promotion onto the Professional Series, whilst those finishing 5th-8th will have an opportunity to move up to the top level through the playoffs.
Bassoo enjoyed an extraordinary few days in Newcastle-under-Lyme, claiming the event 1 title on live television and also reaching the semi-finals in event 2. He banked a cool £5,650 for his efforts and put himself in prime position for promotion.
Ironically, Bassoo began his bid in the first event with a 6-3 victory over Barker in round one. He then eliminated Gary Fenton 6-1, Ian Whitehorn 6-2, Daniel Bishop 6-5 and Robert McCullough 6-5 to reach the FreeSports televised semi-finals on the Sunday morning.
There, he ended the hopes of Phil Parkin 6-3 in the last four and Matt Brierley by the same score in the final to trouser the boosted first prize of £5,000.
The experienced Barker – a former International Masters finalist – recovered from his early exit in event 1 to win the £3,000 on offer for the second Challenger event of the weekend.
Barker defeated Adam Myerscough 6-3, Sam Bircher 6-4, Cameron Tolley 6-2, Andy Lucas 6-5 and Cole Bedford 6-4 to reach the last four where he ended the incredible 12-match winning streak of Bassoo in a 6-4 payback victory.
In the final, Barker crossed cues with current world under-23 champion Luke Gilbert, and it was experience that overcame youth as “Batman’ swooped in to record a 6-3 triumph.
Champion of Champions Qualifiers
As well as the titles, trophies, ranking points and prize money that Brennan, McCartney, Bassoo and Barker won, the quartet also qualify for the prestigious end-of-year Champion of Champions invitational that brings together event champions from this season’s Professional and Challenger Series’.
For results from the weekend’s action, please visit the Ultimate Pool CueScore account.