Magic Moments from the Irish Open

The Irish Open has borne witness to so many special moments in its time. There are countless stories of precious memories and fast friendships forged by patrons over the years so we thought, why don’t we ask those attending for some of their most treasured moments and memories.

Who better to start with than the legend himself, Mr Padraig Parkinson?

Padraig has many strings to his bow: tough poker player, accomplished commentator, and not least of all, genial raconteur with a seemingly-bottomless ocean of hilarious, (occasionally) bawdy anecdotes.

Asked for his favourite Irish Open moment, Padraig scratched his head, mentally shuffling through all those years, and pondered…

It seemed tough to pick just one. “So many great memories,” he told us. “I liked them all!” The affection Padraig has for this unique tournament is palpable.

We reminded him of the Neil Channing victory in 2008, and he recalled a humorous detail of that win – a shrewd bet Channing put on himself with sponsors Paddy Power at 100-1 for £500 with 250 players left, netting him £50,000 on top of the €800,000+ prize money.

Chuckling, Padraig commented on this in typically mischievous, ribald fashion, with a twinkle in his eye “that was a real kick in the b*ll***s!”

Poker host extraordinaire Laura Cornelius has travelled to every far-flung corner of the poker world, interviewing players and hosting poker content over the years. Her favourite memory was a recent one – Steve O’Dwyer’s crushing victory in the 2022 Main Event. He spanked his final table – eliminating every player – and despite his already glittering poker CV, winning the Irish Open was special – even for O’Dwyer.

“I’ve interviewed Steve a lot and I think it’s fair to say that he normally doesn’t give much away,” Laura explained. “This time I really saw a different side to him; it was actually very moving to see how much the event meant to him. It made me pretty emotional!”

Niall “Firaldo” Farrell is a player who loves life on and off the felt and will no doubt be at the heart of many a player’s favourite Irish Open moment but his personal special moment is one he recalls with a touch of regret.

“In 2022, I was supposed to meet Kyle Maguire for breakfast and buy his action but Kyle got lost, ended up in the wrong restaurant and then bumped into Middy (Thomas Middleton.) Middy bought his action, I missed out and the rest was history!” (Maguire would go on to finish 2nd in the Main Event for an eye-watering €195,800…👀)

“It was one of those sliding doors moments!” chuckled Firaldo, having worked hard to overcome the trauma of this bad beat with years of ethanol-based therapy. We think he’s getting there!

Unforgettable was Ian Simpson’s win in 2014 for €265,000 – a result that catapulted him to poker stardom, as tends to happen with Irish Open winners. The win has dual poignancy for Ian, as he used his moment in the spotlight to propose to his then girlfriend, now wife.

Our very own Christian Zetzsche has written a full interview with Ian Simpson with more about this magic moment. Check it out 👉 here.

My own personal favourite Irish Open memory was watching Neil “Bad Beat” Channing demolish the Main Event final table in under 3 hours before taking many of his friends, including members of the media, out for a slap up Chinese meal on him. Being a pun aficionado, I remember former colleague turned thriller novelist Owen Laukkanen’s clever pun headline after Neil’s win.

“Bad Beat Jackpot” – well-played sir. 👏

The Irish Open has such a long, fascinating history, we could go on filling page after page with stories like this, as well as many a tale from the various legendary post-poker parties. We’ll save these for a second installment but hope you’ve enjoyed this Irish Open-themed trip down memory lane.