Last week Irish teenager Josh Boileau reached the final of the European Under-21 Championship in Romania.
It was a fantastic achievement and signals the start of a potentially long and successful career in the sport.
The CYMS Newbridge player has been good enough to give his account of the magnificent run to the final to SnookerHQ, and his experience in the championship overall.
By Josh Boileau
We had just arrived in Bucharest to get off the plane and saw it was about 25 degrees outside so the week had started off perfectly.
When we got to the hotel it was beautiful, I went down for a quick look at the venue and was buzzing to get started.
Unfortunately, in my case, I’d pulled a muscle in my neck and shoulder about a week before the event so I went out to Bucharest having not picked up a cue for a week. Before I got my injury I knew I had every chance of winning it but, when I could barely move when we got there, I would have just been glad to finish my matches, never mind win.
I started off my group matches very slowly but won my first three convincingly enough. My fourth game, though, I couldn’t believe the pain I was in. After the first frame I looked over to PJ Nolan and said I can’t play, but he said stick it out and I did. I lost the match 3-1, albeit to a pretty decent player. I played Oli Lines the next day in my group and won 3-1 so I managed to get second place.
Afterwards, Ger Murray gave me some gel for my neck and it worked wonders. I could play again with no pain so I was on a real buzz. When the knockout stage began I won my last 64 match 4-0 against an up-and-coming Belgian 12 year-old Sybren Sokolowski. I played reasonably well so I was building confidence through every match.
In between rounds, I went for a quick bite to eat down in the promenade shopping centre. It was incredible, I think it had four storeys and had absolutely everything you can think of in it.
I then had my last 32 match shortly after that against Austria’s number 1 player Andreas Ploner, so I knew I had to play well. And I did.
I lost the first frame on the black but managed to win the second the same way, then he went 2-1 ahead with a 70 break so I knew I could be in trouble here. However, from there I won three frames on the bounce with two 50s, a 60 and a 70 break. For me that was the match that made me feel again that I was in this tournament to win.
I only had about 40 mins before I was back on for my last 16 match, which wasn’t a lot of time really, but I won that 4-1 with a 60 and a 115 clearance.
I woke up the next morning and I was shattered. That long day really took it out of me and all the players were the same. I played Lukas Kleckers from Germany in my quarter-final encounter and I started off like a train with a 90 and 70 to go 2-0 ahead.
He came straight back at me, though, with a 70 of his own so the fourth frame before the interval was huge after being 2-0 ahead. I pinched it on the pink and that changed the match in my opinion. He was able to come back to 3-3 but I remained relaxed and knew I’d be okay. I scraped through a great match 5-3 and was delighted.
Later on that day was the semi-final and it was Ireland against England in both matches. I played 2013 runner-up Ashley Carty and Oliver lines was playing David Cassidy from Cork.
The camera crew had just arrived and myself and Ashley were on the TV table. It was first to five again and as we were live on TV I thought I might get nervous, but I was as cool as anything and stormed to a 4-0 lead at the interval.
After the break I think I may have taken my foot off the gas a little. I had my chances to win 5-0 and 5-1 but I didn’t take them and was then only 4-2 ahead. Ashley knew if he went 4-3 he was back in the match and I must have had about 20 chances to finish the match off but I just about did to win 5-2.
I was obviously hoping for an all-Ireland final with David playing the other semi but he lost out to a tough opponent. David had a great tournament, I think he lost three frames in the knockouts getting to the semis and that’s a great achievement in such a tough competition.
So the next morning it was between myself and Oliver Lines in the final – the second time to play in the event itself and fourth time overall. The three times we’d already played I’d won all three matches so I knew I had every chance.
The nerves got the better of both of us in the first frame as we both missed a lot of balls but Oli won it on the final black. I scraped through the next frame to level it at 1-1 and I felt I was just getting into the match. Oli then had a great century to go 2-1 and an 80 clearance in the fourth after being 50 behind to lead 3-1 at the interval. It could have easily been that scoreline for me but he took his chances well.
After the interval I lost the next to go 4-1 down and the following two frames he pinched again from 30 and 60 behind so the 6-1 scoreline didn’t completely reflect the match.
I was so disappointed because I had chances and I just didn’t take them, but I can’t complain as the better player won on the day. I’m good friends with Oli, he’s a top lad and I wish him every bit of luck on the Main Tour.
To all the other Irish lads that participated they had a great tournament too. Ryan Cronin got a tough draw in the knockouts and lost out 4-1 to a Polish boy and Dan Dempsey lost out to Ashley Carty 4-0 but still had a great tournament.
And to Stephen Bateman, he was brilliant. 16 years old at his first Europeans and he got through his group in second position which is a great achievement but he’ll be back next year to do one better I’m sure.
Finally, it was incredible the support we all got from home on Facebook and that. I just couldn’t believe it – after every match I couldn’t believe the amount of messages. It helped so much knowing people were behind me and the rest of the lads and it was a real boost.
For me now, though, it’s back home to enter Q-School which starts in six or seven weeks. After getting to the final I am disappointed not to have won but I’ve taken a lot of positives from it and I’m going into Q-School with great confidence. I know I’ve got every chance to get on that professional tour.
Overall it was a great week and great experience, as every tournament is, and I’m looking forward to Q-School now in Gloucester more than ever.