SHE describes herself as a Dub who lives in Carlow. She plays from the Sharkx Academy in Newbridge. Annette Newman lives in Cranlusky near Ballinabranna, but wherever she comes from Annette Newman, the Irish billiards champion and the number two in the world, has had and still has an extraordinary sporting career. Since winning her first national billiards title in 2015, she has won seven fantastic titles in a row and is almost unbeatable in Ireland. Only once in 31 ranking events in Ireland has she not won. At the age of 61, she has the intention to continue playing.
“I have lived in Carlow for about 14 years. I have been playing snooker since I was 18 and then Dan (Carroll) introduced all the ladies to billiards in December 2015. I’ve been addicted ever since. I love it,” she says proudly.
She will marry Dan this year, who is president of the Republic of Ireland Ladies Snooker Association (RILSA).
Her fiancé is from Tipperary but lives in Carlow. From a sporting point of view they are based in Newbridge. The RILSA has an equal partnership with Snooker and Billiards Ireland, who have a room on Portlaoise Road in Carlow. Sharkx Snooker is definitely Annette’s spiritual home from which she has dominated the sport in this country. She has been working at the Hillview Nursing home since 2011.
Before concentrating on billiards, Annette won 16 snooker rankings. Memories of her snooker achievements are now all but gone, she claims.
“I can’t remember what I won. I have no idea. I know I’ve won a lot, but I’ve done so well with billiards since I started,” she says.
She is coached by Aidan Murray, who in 2019 became the first Irish coach to become a world billiards coach.
“Without him we would be lost”, says Annette, who describes the difference between snooker and billiards.
“You try to keep your cue ball in check and tight control in snooker. In billiards you are looking for cannons and moving the ball. It’s a great game.”
According to Annette, there is another difference.
“Snooker players seem to be talking about retiring at around 40. In billiards, the players seem to go on forever. The camaraderie is incredible,” she says.
Annette’s progress on the world stage was lightning fast. She took part in the Irish Open, a world ranking event, last year. She did brilliantly all the way to the final where she was defeated by current World Champion Anna Lynch from Australia. Seven weeks later they met again. This time at the Irish Masters. Here Annette came close to victory, only for her opponent to finish strong to seal the win. With Annette moving up the world rankings to number two, it was the first time a female cuest in snooker or billiards player from Ireland had been ranked so highly. Before that, snooker player Margaret O’Driscoll was number 10 in the world in the early 1990s and Julie Kelly was in seventh place around the same time.
Annette is not driven by prices.
“I didn’t know I’d like it as much as I do. I must say that I am now more interested in billiards than snooker. Aidan Murray helped us a lot to show us all the different types of shots. After that it’s all practice,” she says.
“I think if you’re interested in something, you have to work hard at it, then you can get really good at it. There is no pressure. We just love the game. We have a great coach in Aidan,” confirms Annette.
“We have nice tables in the Sharkx club. We have everything in store for us.”
Covid has limited Annette’s ability to travel abroad. Playing the game’s number one player to Newbridge was a career highlight for Annette.
“To do so well against the world champion I was very happy with that. I played well and she is a great player, so I was very happy. I did my best and I look forward to playing against her again this year when we hold the Women’s Billiards World Championship in Sharkx in August,” she says.
She doesn’t have a big table at home, but that doesn’t deter her. She was glad she had it during the lock-downs.
“ I have a 10 by 5 table in a shed. It serves its purpose. When I get home, it doesn’t mean I’m going out to play. It’s nice to have it there and especially if we had nowhere to go. I am very lucky to have it. It’s not life-size and it kicks off the cue arm.”
Despite her previous successes, Annette still has her ambitions.
“I would really like to win the world championship this year. That would be a biggie. I will enjoy playing in it. I don’t mind if I lose, but I’m going to do my very best to win.”
After that, she continues to promote the sport as president of the RISLA. Exercise tables have been distributed to schools, among other things. She says Jennifer Earle is one of the rising stars and there are others close by. She looks up to the current number 1 in the world, Anna Lynch from England.
Her inspiration to play snooker came from watching Jimmy White.
“He’s a leftist and I’m a leftist too.”
2019 was her most successful year, winning four majors in one year, including the National Championship. Her appetite for the game is as strong as ever.
“I hope to keep doing well. I don’t expect miracles. I will continue to enjoy and encourage the younger girls. We are very involved at all levels and the game is getting more and more popular.”
National champion billiard amateurs 2015,16,17,18,19,20,21.
National 100 up Billiard Champion 2019 and 2021.
National Billiard League Champion 2021.
30 National Billiards Ranking event titles out of 31 held to date.
Irish number 1 amateur billiard player 2016, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21.
World ranking 2 – 2021
By Kieran Murphy