Video: Joe Swail and Jordan Brown feature as big-time snooker returns to Belfast
RONNIE O’Sullivan and John Higgins have no time to put their feet up after their final battle in the Champion of Champions Cup in Coventry on Saturday as they are both in action on day one of the Coral Northern Ireland Open at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast.
The event is the first of its kind to take place in the city since 2008, when O’Sullivan beat Dave Harold 9-3 in the final of the Northern Ireland Trophy at the Waterfront.
With a total prize fund of £366,000, including £70,00 to the winner and the Alex Higgins Trophy, a mouth-watering week of action is guaranteed, despite the absence of World champion and World numer one Mark Selby and the withdrawal of Judd Trump.
Higgins will be buzzing after enjoying a dream start to November with victories in the Evergrande China Championship and The Champion of Champions, where he beat O’Sullivan 10-7 in the final, and must be high on the shortlist of likely winners.
However, such is the competitive nature of the modern-day game and the sheer volume of tournaments, that the shortlist is not as short as it once was, with the first seven events of the 2016-17 season producing five different winners. Apart from Higgins, Selby is the only player to have won two events.
Higgins begins at 4.30pm today against Paul S Davison, while the crowds are sure to be flocking to the evening session with O’Sullivan taking on David John at 7pm, followed by another crowd favourite in Jimmy White, who plays Gareth Allen at 8pm.
All first round matches are best of seven frames with the first round being played off today and tomorrow. Best chance of a home victory rests with Antrim’s world number 10 Mark Allen, who starts tomorrow evening with a clash against Mark Joyce (7pm).
Former World champion Ken Doherty (v Ashley Hugill, 7pm) and Northern Ireland Amateur champion Patrick Wallace (v Michael Georgiu, 8pm) also start tomorrow, but today there’’ll be no shortage of local support behind Joe Swail.
Nothing would give the man from the Markets – a World Championship semi-finalist in 2000 and 2001 and runner-up in the Welsh Open in 2009 – more pleasure than a good run in front of his home fans.
The world number 60 starts off with a clash against an old adversary in the shape of Welshman Dominic Dale, who he beat 13-9 in the quarter-final of the World Championships in 2000.
While Swail is in the twilight of his career, Antrim’s Jordan Brown is at the other end of the spectrum, fighting to win back his place on the professional tour. He can help his cause with a good run this week, though he could have been handed an easier start than a clash with world number 26 Ben Woollaston.
The 29-year-old played just one season on the tour in 2009/10 and has been among the amateur ranks ever since, winning the last two events on the NIBSA circuit to earn a wild card spot for this week.
“The butterflies are starting now and I will be nervous on the day,” said Brown.
“I just have to block that out. It will be my biggest game since I played John Higgins live on TV in a tournament in Scotland in 2012, and I won that match so that will stand me in good stead. I know I am good enough to compete with the best of them but it’s up to me to prove that. I will have a lot of friends and family watching me so hopefully it will go well.”
Brown hopes he has a future on the green baize.
“I realise the years are flying by and it’s time I did something in snooker,” he said.
“My goal is to get back on to the tour and I’ll be playing in Q School every year until I achieve that. It’s not easy to find the time to practise when you are working full time, but I have been playing a lot recently to prepare myself.
“I practise against the likes of Mark Allen, Joe Swail and Patrick Wallace, and I have recently got back on board with a coach called Marty Brammeld who has helped me a lot. If I can get back on the tour I feel I’ve got the potential to do well.”
Kildare pro Josh Boileau takes on Mike Dunn today at 10am, while Fergal O’Brien faces Tian Pengfei aat 1pm.
DAY ONE SCHEDULE (Irish players in CAPS)
1000 Barry Hawkins v Martin O’Donnell (TV table)
- Zhang Yong v Kurt Maflin (TV table)
- Michael Wild v Adam Duffy
- Kurt Dunham v Christopher Keogan
- Robert Milkins v Scott Donaldson
- Mike Dunn v JOSH BOILEAU
- Allan Taylor v Li Hang
- Zhou Yuelong v Matthew Stevens (TV table)
- Joe Perry v Itaro Santos (TV table)
- Alex Borg v Dechawat Poomjaeng
- FERGAL O’BRIEN v Tian Pengfei
- Sam Craigie v Jamie Jones
- Adam Stefanow v Jamie Cope
- Chen Zhe v Ross Muir
- Elliott Slessor v Jimmy Robertson
- Shaun Murphy v Luca Brecel (TV table)
- Stuart Carrington v Michael Holt (TV table)
- Wang Yuchen v Sanderson Lam
- Zak Surety v Darryl Hill 1630
- John Higgins v Paul S Davison (TV table)
- JORDAN BROWN v Ben Woollaston (TV table)
- Hossein Vafaei Ayouri v Rod Lawler
- Thor Chuan Leong v Mitchell Mann
- Ronnie O’Sullivan v David John (TV table)
- Graeme Dott v Michael White (TV table)
- Zhang Anda v Ian Preece
- Chris Wakelin v James Wattana
- Gareth Allen v Jimmy White (TV table)
- Mark Davis v Jason Weston (TV table)
- Cao Yupeng v Akani Songsermsawad
1245-1730: Eurosport 1 and Quest
1845-2200: Eurosport 1