Cork teenager Aaron Hill admitted Ronnie O'Sullivan's disparaging remarks about the latest generation of snooker talent were in the back of his mind after he shocked his 'childhood hero' at the European Masters last night.
Hill claimed a sensational second round 5-4 victory against the world champion at Milton Keynes, despite letting slip a 3-1 lead against the Rocket, who was in action for the first time since he triumphed at the Crucible last month.
While O'Sullivan levelled proceedings and moved ahead, Hill hit back to force a decider and a break of 78 sent him through to the third round where he will face Matthew Stevens today.
Hill only turned professional earlier this year, having won the EBSA European Under-21 Snooker Championships which qualified him for the next two seasons of the World Snooker Tour. Days earlier he had retained his European U18 crown, Hill becoming the first player to hold both titles in the same year.
During his Crucible win, O'Sullivan had launched an attack on the sport's up-and-coming talent, saying, "If you look at the younger players coming through, they're not that good really.
"Most of them would do well as half-decent amateurs, or not even amateurs they're so bad a lot of them.
"A lot of them you see now, you think, I've probably got to lose an arm and a leg to fall outside the top 50. So that's why we're hovering around — because of how poor it is down that end."
“That comment was in the back of my head a small bit,” Hill said, in an interview with World Snooker Tour following last night's win.
💬 "One day I'm going to show him what I can do. I think today was the day."— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) September 24, 2020
Newly-turned professional @AaronHill147 (18) was thrilled just to be playing his childhood hero. But then to BEAT him?
There's a new kid on the block 🤙 #BVEuroSeries pic.twitter.com/Xt8XzZcI43
“But I didn’t worry about it. When he said it, I said, ‘One day, I’m going to show him what I can do’. And I think today was the day.
"My childhood hero. To play him so early on… I didn’t go out there to just be there and be happy to be there."
Hill's talent has been well flagged in Cork and Irish snooker circles. Earlier this year, he broke new ground for an Irish amateur in a competitive event by compiling three centuries in succession while playing for the Crucible team against Youghal in the Cork snooker league final — while playing against another rising Cork star Ross Bulman.
Hill was a key member of the Crucible team that lifted the All-Ireland Snooker Club Championship last January, beating St John’s CYMS at the Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney. That night Hill rattled off three frame wins in 45 minutes.
Hill now tackles world number 33 Stevens in the third round at 2.30pm today, with a possible fourth-round match also on the horizon this evening should he overcome the Welshman.
“I’m just going to play the table, play the balls. One ball at a time, one frame at a time. Just keep believing. You have to beat the best to be the best. I believe in myself.
"I’m just so, so pleased with that victory. Everyone back home, my family and friends must be buzzing. I had a quick look at my phone and I think it’s going to take me to Christmas to reply to everyone.
“I’m just living up the moment and can’t wait for the next round.”
The match looked to have slipped from Hill's grasp when O'Sullivan pulled off a familiar recovery to go from 3-1 down to 4-3 in front.
“I just said to myself in the chair, ‘If you were offered 4-3 down before the match, would you have taken it?’ And of course I would have taken it.
“So I just tried to win that frame to go four each and anything can happen, as you just saw.
“I just said to myself in my room beforehand, ‘Go out and enjoy it. I’ve got absolutely nothing to lose’. Just to hopefully go out there and show what I can do, and thankfully I did there.
"I’m stuck for words here a bit.”
After that European U21 win in March, Hill spoke about how excited he was to turn professional.
"I can't wait. Hopefully, I get a good start and I show the world what I can do."
He certainly did that last night.