|Country||Republic of Ireland|
|Organisation(s)||World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association|
|Final champion(s)||Ronnie O'Sullivan|
The Irish Masters was a professional snooker tournament. It was founded in 1978, following on from the successful Benson & Hedges Ireland Tournament (alternatively known as the Benson & Hedges Ireland Championship). The final champion of the tournament was Ronnie O'Sullivan.
Benson & Hedges Ireland Tournament
The Benson & Hedges Ireland Tournament started out as a challenge match in 1975 between Alex Higgins and John Spencer. The match initially carried a £250 prize for the winner and £150 for the runner-up, but both players agreed to a "winner takes all" format. Spencer scored two centuries (a 121 and a 109) and despite Higgins leading 7–5, Spencer won four frames in a row to win. In 1976 and 1977 the event was staged as a four-man invitational.
In 1978 the tournament was renamed the Irish Masters and continued as an ever-present fixture on the snooker calendar until 2005. Benson & Hedges continued their sponsorship with the tournament being played at Goffs, Co. Kildare. After tobacco sponsorship was outlawed in the Republic of Ireland in 2000, the Irish government funded the event from 2001 and it was subsequently relocated to the Citywest Hotel, Saggart, Co. Dublin. The tournament was staged on an invitational basis for most of its existence but became a ranking tournament from the 2002/03 season. The event was dropped from the calendar in the 2005/2006 season. In 2007, a three-day invitational event known as the Kilkenny Irish Masters was staged with 16 players. It attracted a strong field with 9 of the world's top 16 players taking part, with Ronnie O'Sullivan winning the title.
The tournament was dominated most of all by Steve Davis, who won it eight times. It was won by Irish players on two occasions, Alex Higgins in 1989 and Ken Doherty in 1998. Doherty claimed the title despite losing in the final 3–9 against Ronnie O'Sullivan, as O'Sullivan subsequently failed a drugs test after testing positive for cannabis. There was only one official maximum break in the history of the tournament. John Higgins made it in the quarter-finals of the 2000 event against Jimmy White. There has been one further maximum break in 2007 by O'Sullivan, but it is not included in the list of official maximum breaks.
* Ronnie O'Sullivan was disqualified and stripped of the title in 1998 after a 9–3 win over Ken Doherty.
O'Sullivan failed a drugs test after testing positive for cannabis. Doherty was awarded the title.
- "Spencer "breaks" Higgins". Belfast Telegraph. 26 May 1975. p. 17.
- Turner, Chris. "Irish Masters". Chris Turner's Snooker Archive. Archived from the original on 16 February 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2010.
- Turner, Chris. "Kilkenny Irish Masters". Chris Turner's Snooker Archive. Archived from the original on 16 February 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2010.
- "O'Sullivan drives Hawkins to drink". RTÉ Sport. Archived from the original on 28 March 2007. Retrieved 18 November 2010.
- Ian O'Riordan (7 July 1998). "O'Sullivan stripped of Irish title". The Irish Times. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
- "O'Sullivan notches 147 in Ireland". BBC Sport. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
- Turner, Chris. "Maximum Breaks". cajt.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk. Chris Turner's Snooker Archive. Archived from the original on 10 February 2013. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
- "Hall of Fame". Snooker.org. Retrieved 22 June 2013.