Contrary to popular belief, there are more than just two great players — Padraig Parkinson and Donnacha O’Dea — in Ireland.
The likes of Peter Roche, boasting a win in Vienna’s EWSOP Trial and a fourth-place finish in the Paris leg of the World Poker Tour in just two European appearances in 2004, along with 2002 World Series of Poker finalist Scott Gray and 1999 WSOP winner Noel Furlong, are like Rollers and Jags on a prestige pre-owned car lot.
However, new high-performance models will eventually hit the streets, and the question is, who will fast-track their way along the poker highway in the coming years?
It’s a fact that O’Dea’s young son, Eoghan, is playing in weekly tournaments and small cash games with apparent success. Progression onto the bigger stage would seem logical, although Eoghan’s pursuit of a career as a tennis coach is taking immediate priority.
Also, 22-year-old Kevin Maloney has impressed many at both of Dublin’s cardrooms. Supporting his computer science studies through his hours at the tables, Maloney rates as a consistent winner with a big future.
However, there is a small problem … “I’m undecided about attempting to make poker my profession,” explains Maloney. “I love the game and enjoy the mental challenge. Yes, I’d also like to play in the World Series and go on the circuit, but you need a tank for that. At the moment, I’m considering taking a master’s degree once my current course is complete. That will give me another year of poker playing whilst studying, and then I’ll make a decision on the future.”
Maybe young David O’Callaghan is the big Irish star of the future. From a Poker Online Pkv playing family — his elder brother Nial and father John both play — the 21-year-old belied his odds and inexperience to finish second in the opening event of the European Poker Tour in Barcelona in September.
He could become a major-name player, but he is another who’s mixing his time at the tables with full-time study. His subject is philosophy and the scales are dipping toward a conventional career when graduating.
The first to admit luck played a major part in his €40,000 payday, David now has a bankroll, but more importantly, he has the mental capacity to identify and eradicate his faults.
“I believed I played well to get to the final table at the Spanish EPT event, but I arrived at the final drained,” says O’Callaghan. “I was not the best player at the final table, but I rode my luck and had a great experience that I will learn from.
“The short-term plan is to play in relatively affordable festival tournaments in the foreseeable future and see where we end up. Long term, I’m not sure about playing poker professionally, although I will always play socially, and right now it’s a great way to get money together.”
It obviously appears there is a distinctive lack of enduring ambition about the place, although Connor Doyle, who boasted an incredible win-to-run ratio in weekly tournaments last summer before succumbing to the temptation of the magic roundabout — the roulette wheel — was keen on, and capable of, making poker playing a lucrative career.
Connor’s return to the fold is eagerly anticipated, especially if re-emerging with his focus set in the right direction. However, as the saying goes, there is young potential everywhere, but just like popcorn in a pan, some pop and some don’t!
A final, and worthy, addition to this “young Irish players list” is Cathal Quinn. Equally adept at tournaments, cash games, and Internet play, he is one to look out for in the coming months.
Raw Talent No Match for Inherent Wealth
Closing this newcomer subject on a mind teaser, can you name any young player who has risen to prominence on the live circuit during the past three years, one-off results apart?
The answer is probably no, and the reason? Find anyone in his early 20s who has the ability to raise a minimum of €80,000 for entry fees and expenses to embark on a single year on the European tour. Breaking into the big time is clearly not a bowl of cherries, and like Formula 1, infantile raw talent would appear to have little relevance compared to financial support or inherent wealth.