Magical Maguire Buries O’Brien

Stephen Maguire fired in three consecutive centuries and a break of 70 to complete a 6-2 victory over Fergal O’Brien on the opening day of the 2012 UK Championship.

Neither of the duo played particularly well in sharing a stagnated first four frames but Maguire will feel lucky to have even got two to his name.

O’Brien scrapped in typical fashion and seemed favourite to take a 3-1 lead, visibly frustrating his Scottish opponent, but succumbed to a respotted black and never had a chance on the resumption of play following the mid-session interval.

Rejuvenated and having evidently given himself a firm talking to, Maguire knocked in successive tons of 102, 104 and 131 before adding a 70 in the eighth frame to quickly roll over the Dubliner.

Prior to the tournament I tipped the champion to come from a potential winner of a quarter-final encounter between Maguire and Judd Trump.

Trump has been performing superbly in the run up to his defence in York, capturing two titles and reaching two other finals in recent weeks, but 2004 victor Maguire will undoubtedly prove to be an extremely tough challenge if indeed they both get that far.

When the Glaswegian burst onto the scene eight years ago by claiming his UK crown, where he absolutely demolished the entire field along the way, many, including Ronnie O’Sullivan, were tipping him to be the next dominant player.

However, the odd battle scar here and there affected him – ironically enough quite often against the ‘Rocket’ himself – and it is fair to say that he has failed to live up to the very high expectations held of him.

All is not lost, though, and at 31 Maguire is still easily young enough to be a contender at the business end of major championships for many years to come.

In saying that, having not won a ranking event in over four years, and following a trio of defeats in finals he arguably should have all won in the last two seasons, Maguire’s confidence and indeed career could do with a jumpstart. Perhaps it will come this week.

Elsewhere, former world number ones John Higgins and Mark Selby recorded respective 6-3 triumphs over a pair of tricky Michaels, Holt and White.

21 year-old Welshman White has been widely heralded as a star of the future and put it up to two-time Master Selby by hanging on to his coat-tails at 3-3, but the ‘Jester of Leicester’ stepped up a gear to ensure a safe passage into the second round.

There, Selby will meet another player from Wales in Ryan Day, who played brilliantly to upset two-time former champion Ding Junhui 6-4.

In a high-quality affair, the clash looked set for a decider when the first eight games were tied but Day, maybe buoyed from coming from 9-6 down to overcome the Chinese Sensation at the Crucible last April, showed no signs of nerves in taking the last two frames to win.

Meanwhile, Barry Hawkins edged Liang Wenbo 6-4 while Graeme Dott came from two down to defeat Martin Gould¬†6-5 in the first decider of this year’s tournament.

The full draw can be viewed by clicking here. 

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