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UK Championship Semi-final Preview

A trio of former champions make up the four semi-finalists in the 2014 Coral UK Championship in York.

Who will reach the final? - photos courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Who will reach the final? – photos courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and Stephen Maguire all emerged from their respective last eight ties, along with Shanghai Masters champion Stuart Bingham.

It ensures that there promises to be a grandstand finish as the second biggest ranking event of the season draws to its close at the Barbican Centre.

O’Sullivan and Bingham’s clash marks a repeat of their quarter-final bout last year, an encounter that the latter emerged victorious in with a 6-4 scoreline.

However, since then the ‘Rocket’ has been almost faultless on British soil, having collected the Masters, Welsh Open and Champion of Champions trophies in 2014.

O’Sullivan’s only blip was in the final of the World Championship when he let a big lead over Mark Selby slip at the Crucible in Sheffield.

Despite not being at his best for most of this week, regardless of his mesmerizing 13th 147 against Matthew Selt, one suspects that the 39 year-old is desperate to land a fifth UK crown.

It has been seven years since his last triumph, an unusually long length of time for a performer of O’Sullivan’s pedigree.

Bingham will represent a tough challenge, though, and should be match hardened having fought his way through a brace of tough 6-5 thrillers already.

For a long time during his career the 38 year-old failed to break into the elite but ever since the Barry Hearn era began ‘Ballrun’ has been taking advantage of the influx of tournaments onto the calendar.

Indeed, since 2011 Bingham has won two ranking event titles – featuring in two further finals – as well claiming four minor ranking Asian Tour events and the now defunct Premier League.

In last year’s semi-final, Bingham came agonisingly close to reaching his maiden major final before being denied by eventual victor Neil Robertson in a 9-8 thriller.

The second last four tie is between the 2004 and 2011 winners, Maguire and Trump.

Maguire looked to be heading for a comfortable victory over Marco Fu on Friday when breaks of 52, 95, 66 and 113 gave him a 4-1 lead.

Yet, after a kick in the seventh frame allowed his opponent in to get back to within one frame, Maguire’s head completely went astray and in the end he was lucky to stumble over the winning line.

The Scot is regarded as one of the fiercest competitors on the Main Tour, a label which may be true, but his temperament leaves a lot to be desired and has arguably cost him a more successful career.

Blessed with all the talent in the world, Maguire’s inability to keep his emotions in check has ensured that he rarely lives up to his ‘On Fire’ billing – at least not consistently.

The 33 year-old will need to remain focused if he is to deny Trump what would be his fourth final appearance of the campaign.

The Australian Open champion is reproducing the form that saw him reach the world no.1 position in 2012, before suffering what was a nightmare 18 months by his high standards.

The Englishman compiled breaks of 72, 58, 59, 77, 65 and 64 as he easily outscored Mark Davis yesterday.

Many will be hoping for a repeat of a spectaculor Champion of Champions final in Coventry where O’Sullivan overcame Trump amid a storm of blistering high-scoring.

Maguire and Bingham will have something to say about that in the newly shortened best of 11 contests, but it’s hard to argue the probability of that eventuality materialising.

Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.