By Johnny ‘Sniper’ Williams
I know I said before the tournament that if I didn’t make the last 32 I would be upset, and in a way I am because I was one frame away, but then again in another sense I’m not. The standard was incredibly high and I never played s*** in any of my games. If a bit of luck had gone my way in a few group matches or in my last 64 things would be very different.
I lost to an ex-pro 4-2, then last year’s semi finalist 4-3, then 4-3 to a very good Iranian who fluked a snooker in the last frame. None of these highly rated players whitewashed me or anything so for putting it up to them I feel good. However, it’s about winning matches and this is what I failed to do. I was 2-1 against Jin Long and 3-2 up against Kamal Chawla and I could not finish the job. And without any hesitation I put it purely down to nerves.
When I was on the verge of a big international scalp so to speak my cue action just deserted me or I had bad shot selection. This will come with experience and hopefully if I ever get a chance to play in a Worlds or a European event I wont falter at the final hurdles. If I had won either of my tough group matches along with the other “easier” ones I would have had a much easier last 64 clash which could have made all the difference. Some people had dirt easy draws and didn’t need to play half as good as they could to finish top.
As for the other lads, Greg Casey was playing some amazing snooker on the practice tables over there but when it came to match time it just didn’t happen for him. Even he admitted that himself. For me, in practice it’s the best I’ve ever seen him play, and I thought he would have gone further in the competition. He will feel aggrieved about where he finished as he has experience in these big venues but it just wasn’t his week. I couldn’t question his dedication or determination that’s for sure.
Brendan O’Donoghue, like always, had his game face on from day one. He does everything to the book in preparation and his match play, like I have said so many times before, is impeccable. Yet, from the first day Brendan never felt comfortable over there – complaining he wasn’t cueing straight. He didn’t feel comfortable in any of his matches and, even though the balls were still going in, he never felt good on the table. I know exactly what he means. However, the difference between us two would be that he tries to scrape through and get the result where as I might just let my head drop if I didn’t feel at least 90% of my best.
He went out in the last 16 to a brilliant Chinese player but I will admit he had an amazing run of the balls. In the last three frames it seemed nothing could go wrong for him. If he missed nothing was left on or he fluked a ball and made 70. Brendan never blamed the luck as such but it was very evident to see. It was comical at times. Not to mention it was very off-putting when his supporters cheered when he fluked a ball or a snooker. I still believe Brendan has a Europeans or a Worlds left in him. As does he.
In the Masters event I didn’t see much of Brendan Cooney throughout the week but when I did he was relaxing in the bar, having one or two and getting his food and going to bed. A very laid back man it has to be said. On the match table he was buzzing. At one stage he knocked in a 95 break and he was beating most opponents bar Steve Judd 3-0. He was oozing confidence but this aura seemed to have left him when he came up against fellow countryman Mark Tuite.
Mark started off really well and Brendan just didn’t seem to be the same player he was in the groups. For what reason I don’t know, but Mark did play well in that game it has to be said.
Speaking about Mark, he had the best tournament out of the lot of us, reaching his maiden world semi-final. To be honest Mark wasn’t buzzing like I have seen him before in his groups but, being a player like Brendan O’D, he ground out results and just got the job done. Like Brendan again, he never had self belief or confidence in his cue action or his ability for the entire week. He will admit this himself. He only really started playing at the business end of the event in the knockout stages. He beat a very good Indian player who was seeded 3rd, I missed this match as I was sleeping in for my own match that day. Then he beat Cooney in style.
But in his semi-final game he was by far the better player, racing to a 4-2 lead if I remember right. I left at this stage as I was shattered, fell asleep in the room and when Mark walked in his face said it all. “I threw it away,” and later on I heard this was the case. He, like myself, couldn’t close the deal at the final hurdle. I’m not sure if it was nerves but I imagine it had something to do with the potential for reaching a world final. His opponent played very well in the last three frames and it just wasn’t to be. He will be back stronger next year I hope.
I really loved the event. I loved the people, the players, the match conditions, the officials, the atmosphere, the support. Everything. And id love to go back some day. Whether this happens or not I’m not sure, it will all depend on whether I’m accepted to Maynooth for my H-Dip next year, and if not I might head away and teach abroad.
Bulgaria itself, not holding back, is a rough spot. When I first went through the city of Sofia it looked like a war zone – graffiti everywhere, abandoned buildings, it was just something I’ve never seen before and in short made me a little uneasy. I never felt safe or comfortable walking around the place, not to mention it didn’t help that there was someone shot outside of our hotel the week before our event and the fact I was told the mafia runs the city. But funny enough id still go back in the morning. I made some amazing friends and had a great time. I will remember it for the rest of my life.
This experience has without a doubt motivated me more to get my ranking back up to where it should be and qualify for more of these events. I know I’m able to compete at a World Amateur level now and I want to go back and make a name for myself. Last but not least, Ireland did come back with one major success story, and that was that our own RIBSA chairman, Jim Leacy, won the nomination for the IBSF snooker presidency. We were all delighted as this should and will do wonders for Irish snooker. Not to mention I was told that in future events if people pull out at the last minute Jim can try to replace that player with one of our own. Which once again would be amazing. And even more amazing if I was one of those players if I didn’t qualify the traditional way.
Finally, I would like to thank a very special friend who played every shot with me over there from back in Ireland, constantly giving me advice, constantly giving me reassurance and wishing everyone well. Truly loves the amateur game and has great support for Irish snooker. They know who they are.