With the golden generation of Irish snooker well and truly behind us, thoughts turn to the new breed of players from the Emerald Isle emerging through the ranks.
Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien are having decent campaigns so far this year but their careers are nearing an end while stalwarts like Joe Delaney and Michael Judge dropped off the circuit entirely last season.
The likes of Vincent Muldoon and Brendan O’Donoghue have been on and off the Main Tour in recent years and currently David Morris and David Hogan are attempting a breakthrough of their own.
23 year-old Hogan is on his second stint on the professional scene after an unsuccessful period two seasons ago.
However, the sport was in a completely different state of affairs as recently as that with opportunities significantly limited.
“When I was first on the Main Tour it was completely different. There was only a handful of events and if you didn’t perform immediately you were already under pressure to keep your place as a professional. It was really almost impossible to stay on the tour because there were so few opportunities.”
Hogan’s debut campaign came after he burst onto the scene to claim the 2009 European Amateur Championship in Belgium.
It was a tournament that ultimately gave him the confidence to compete in the big-time but, amazingly, he almost did not even attend.
“I was very surprised to win the Euros. I wasn’t even going to go over believe it or not but my mother persuaded me. I didn’t start to really believe I could win it until I beat Tony Drago 5-1 in the quarter-finals. That gave me the confidence to think that I can do this – there were three Irish players in the last four and I was thinking ‘I know these guys and I can beat them’.
Then I played really well to beat Sascha Lippe 6-0 to get to the final, I think I had breaks of over 50 in every frame and played brilliantly. It just clicked into place.”
Having tasted the Main Tour once already, the Tipperary native wasted little time in recovering his professional status and last year topped the Irish Senior rankings.
This automatically gained him an invitation back after just one year of an absence but results haven’t been easy to come by this time around either.
“The season so far has been okay, not great. I’ve had a couple of tough draws and that has been frustrating. I played Neil Robertson a few weeks ago in Germany and had chances to beat him but couldn’t get over the winning line. It’s tough because the pressure is constant when you are playing guys like that.”
Despite this, Hogan has had the fortune of a few walkover matches which has helped him gain a foothold in his goal to maintain his place as a pro.
“Obviously it would be nicer to be winning the (walkover) matches yourself. I feel confident I would have won those matches anyway if they were played but there’s no guarantees so I’m happy to take it. You still get the ranking points as if it was a victory so it helps.
My ambitions for this season are really to just get into the Top 64 in the world rankings and stay on the Main Tour. Or get in by doing well on the PTC series. If I dropped off again I’m not sure what I would do so that is definitely the goal for this season.
I think I have a good chance – all it takes is a run in an event and you’ll shoot up, it’s just making it happen. If I didn’t stay on I’d probably try Q-School but after that I’m not sure.
It is so expensive and I’d be 25 by the time I could get back on again – you’d have to be thinking to yourself is this going to work out and how much time is left? I’ll hopefully start playing well this weekend in Sheffield and not have to worry about that.”
While it is fantastic for the players at the top of the sport that there are more yearly events, it is easy to forget that the constant travelling and living expenses for those further down the rankings is exhausting on a variety of levels.
There are no guarantees of prize money unless you win a couple of matches and the pressure becomes intensified.
Luckily, Hogan, who plays Tom Ford in the first round of PTC 5 at the weekend, has a tight-knit circle of family and friends that are able to support his cause.
“Yeah they are very supportive. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for my parents. They’ve put me through everything and given me the money to get this far. My brothers and sister are the same, always texting me to see how I got on so it is nice.
It is difficult when you don’t have a sponsor because the year is so expensive. To get to all the tournaments you’re paying hundreds of euro and it is tough to make that back so I owe a lot to my parents for that. There might be an opportunity of a sponsor here and there but it isn’t really enough because you’d need a substantial backer.”
Hogan started playing pool as a seven year-old before being advised to try his hand at snooker at junior events in Nenagh.
This was around the time that heroes like Doherty and O’Brien were competing regularly in the final stages of the three majors – Worlds, UK and Masters – and when there was consistently an Irish tournament on the calendar.
With the PTC Grand Finals at the Helix in Dublin last March and the upcoming minor-ranking event in Killarney next month, it is hoped that there will be a renewed interest here for snooker.
“It’s great to have the tournaments in Ireland and give a bit of interest back into the country. We used to have the Irish Masters and it would be great to have a proper ranking event back here because Scotland, England and Wales have been having them and so should we.
But there’s more of a buzz back around the place I think and more people seem to be playing and watching with more tournaments shown on Eurosport. It will be good to play in Killarney next month and see what the crowds are like.
I was in Germany a few weeks ago – The crowds there are fantastic and that was only a PTC event. There is huge potential for the sport there.”
Hogan is not shy about his desire to play in front of those big crowds and hopefully it will be this motivation that maintains his progress for the future.