Gareth Potts and Dom Cooney added their names to this season’s list of Professional Series winners following respective triumphs in Events 7 and 8 during the final weekend of the season at the Players Pool & Snooker Lounge in Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Within just four months of his comeback to the sport after a seven-and-a-half-year hiatus, four-time world champion Potts became a major champion once again as he lifted the trophy and pocketed the £10,000 top prize in front of his home crowd on a bustling Saturday evening.
Potts began the weekend outside of the top 16 and had plenty of work to do when he quickly found himself 3-0 down to Rob Wharne in his opening match. However, he managed to turn things around to record a 7-4 victory.
The 38-year-old was closer to the exit door in the last 16 when he was 6-4 behind to former European Champion Karl Sutton on the TV table, but he kept his cool as he strung together the final three frames for a 7-6 success. Potts then eliminated Greg Batten 7-4 in the quarter-finals and fellow all-time great Chris Melling 7-5 in the semi-finals in what was a rerun of the 2005 world championship final that Potts won.
In the title match Potts faced the circuit’s most in-form player – Event 5 winner Shaun Storry who became the first player to make consecutive tier one Professional Series finals.
Having dropped just seven frames during his opening three rounds, he came back from 5-3 down against Dylan Leary in the last four to force a 6-reds shootout which he came through.
The finalists traded the first seven frames but when Storry broke dry in frame eight, Potts capitalised with a reverse clearance to move 5-3 up going into the mid-session interval.
On resumption, ‘The Golden Boy’ pushed home, pulling away for a comfortable 9-4 win to secure his biggest accolade on the smaller table since his fourth world championship at the start of 2014 – shortly before he embarked on his successful Chinese 8-ball career predominantly in the Far East.
Finishing the season fifth in the pro rankings – despite not playing in the first two events – it is ominous for his rivals that Potts appears to already be getting back towards his best.
Youngster Cooney recorded the biggest win of his career to date in the final Professional Series event of the inaugural campaign.
The former world championship runner-up came into the final event off the back of five successive first round defeats on the Series, but finished the course in style and banked a £4,000 top prize for his efforts.
Having received a bye in the last 32 due to Neil Raybone’s withdrawal due to Covid, Cooney ousted former International Masters winner Rob Chilton 6-5 in the last 16 and returned Sunday morning to dispatch Jimmy Croxton 6-1 in the last eight.
Later in the day and in front of the live television cameras, Cooney produced a memorable session of 8-ball pool that saw him deny two of the sport’s leading lights, back-to-back. He defeated Melling 6-3 in the semi-finals – a result that guaranteed him top 16 status next season – before getting the better of reigning BI world champion Scott Gillespie 10-7 in the final.
Despite falling at the last hurdle, Scotsman Gillespie can be pleased with his run in the event which meant he too pushed his way into the elite top 16 bracket.
Thompson Tops Rankings
Three-time Professional Series event winner Shane Thompson finishes the season as the number one professional ranked player.
Being the final events of the campaign, there were several interesting ranking-based stories throughout the three days.
Despite losing in the opening rounds of both events, The Safecracker’s 20,000 points total was not surpassed, although Storry would have done had he defeated Potts in the Event 7 final.
Event 1 winner Declan Brennan came third, whilst Melling – who has been a two-time finalist and two-time semi-finalist this season - is fourth.
Carl Morris is sixth, Shaun Chipperfield seventh and Dom Cooney gatecrashes the top eight with his fantastic victory.
France’s Christophe Lambert clings on to the all-important 16th position, edging out Jimmy Croxton by virtue of a better best result throughout the season.
The biggest casualty not to make the top 16 is former world and current Ultimate Pool Masters champion Phil Harrison who came 18th.
With the professional circuit expanding to 48 players next season, the top 16 will all avoid the bother of preliminary rounds in the Professional Cup and Professional Series.