It’s been Ireland’s best kept sporting secret but from tomorrow through to Sunday, snooker’s version of the Champions League final takes place in Galway — and over 40 million people will tune in to watch it.
The event will be televised around the world with Eurosport, Shanghai TV, Beijing TV, Guangzhou TV and Hong Kong’s Now TV — as well as stations in New Zealand and the Middle East broadcasting live.
And it’s no wonder considering the line up. The Betfair Players Tour Championship finals features 24 of the world’s best players including John Higgins, Mark Selby, Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
The event, taking place at the Bailey Allen Hall in NUI Galway, has a £70,000 (€83,700) top prize and Dubliner Fergal O’Brien is desperate to claim the prize in front of a home crowd.
“I believe I can still win another one,” he said.
“If you told me now that I won’t, I’d be heartbroken. I’m not sure I would continue playing.”
He recently turned 40 and has taken up middle-distance running with his local athletics club Lucan Harriers and recently won an 800m race in his own category.
“It was a tremendous buzz,” he said. “I’ve actually got a good kick and I’m pretty fast over short distances. It’s not often you see Fergal O’Brien and fast in the same sentence!”
O’Brien played superbly in the Players Tour Championship events this season, finishing 19th on the Order of Merit to qualify for the final.
“This year I made it my business to finish in the top 24. That was great motivation for me and it worked.
“My wife Jean and daughter Isobel will come to watch me as well as our parents and a lot of friends, especially if I’m still here at the weekend.”
Meanwhile world champion John Higgins is determined to end his trophy drought.
“I’m hoping to figure strongly in Galway. The Irish snooker fans are fantastic, it will be St Patrick’s weekend and hopefully the fans will celebrate by watching some snooker,” he said.
“I played well in my first couple of matches in China, then lost to Robert Milkins in the quarter-finals but he played great.”
First round draw: Dominic Dale v Xiao Guodong (winner v Judd Trump), John Higgins v Jamie Jones (winner v Andrew Higginson), Ben Woollaston v Ding Junhui (winner v Mark Selby), Martin Gould v Stephen Lee (winner v Michael Holt), Barry Hawkins v Jack Lisowski (winner v Neil Robertson), Fergal O’Brien v Joe Perry (winner v Graeme Dott), Mark Davis v Tom Ford (winner v Stephen Maguire), Ricky Walden v Matthew Stevens (winner v Ronnie O’Sullivan).
All matches are the best of seven frames.
* Tickets are available from 0818 719 300 or online at www.ticketmaster.ie.
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