Features, Irish Snooker, News

Sniper Shot: TJ Dowling

Over the course of this season, Jonathan “Sniper” Williams will be conducting a series of interviews with players from the Irish snooker scene. 

Many thanks to Jonathan for his contributions to SnookerHQ and to all the players who have agreed to take part in this new feature. We hope you enjoy it.

Sniper: What are your main goals for this season?

Dowling: “The same as every year. It’s always nice to win a tournament and if you win one you can be high up in the rankings to qualify for the international events like the Europeans and the Home Internationals, and hopefully then at the end of it the World Amateurs.”

Sniper: You were victorious in the Home Internationals this year, how did that go?

Dowling: “I played alright, considering I hadn’t really played much into it. But there was a great team spirit for us over there so we fed off each other. I played well at the important times when the frames were there to be won. We played really well against England and Wales, especially the Welsh match.”

Sniper: Tell us about your most successful moment in snooker.

Dowling: “The first big one, I suppose because it came first, was the European Under-19s. I won all the Irish junior tournaments before that and that was my first European title. I won it in 1997 and it was a great spell.”

“I had only just won the Under-17s and Under-19s back home and I went over to Jersey for the European Under-19s and beat Michael Holt in the final. Then, when I came back to Ireland two weeks later I won the National Championship for the first time – I was 16.

“I won it in 1998 again then but it took me another 19 years to win another. I didn’t reach a final in that time but I missed about five or six years in that period. Without a doubt, though, the 2016 win was one of my better titles. Not many people would win the National Championship almost 20 years after their last.”

Sniper: Where did you start playing?

Dowling: “I started playing in the Classic Snooker Club in Finglas. It’s still open in Dublin, it’s a great club. It has plenty of junior players I see now coming through in the junior tournaments. I played all my junior years there and it’s the same place where Joe Delaney started.”

“When I started driving, I started playing in Celbridge Snooker Club in County Kildare. I went there to develop my game because the standard of player was so good. You had Stephen Murphy there at the time and Joe Canny.

“I played there for many years, it’s also a great club and there were great lads there at the time. The last five years I’ve been playing with Terry Rogers, and it’s been a fantastic club as well.”

Sniper: What do you think would represent your worst defeat in snooker?

Dowling: “I never like losing, but I was never one to dwell over it too much. Straight after a defeat I’d feel very, very sick but after a while I’d get over it and there’s more to life than snooker.”

“But I will say, as it’s fresh in my mind, a couple of years ago Sanderson Lam beat me in the EBSA Play-Offs to get onto the Main Tour. I beat Kishan Hirani in the quarters and Adam Duffy in the semis and I had to beat Lam to get onto the tour, but he beat me 4-2. I’m not messing, but that took three weeks to get over.”

This or That TJ DowlingSniper: Who is your most difficult opponent, and why?

Dowling: “I’d say Johnny Williams would have a nice record against me! I don’t know, though. I’m not scared of anyone and I’ve beaten everyone over the years.”

Sniper: Who do you think has been the most talented Irish amateur snooker player?

Dowling: “David Morris.”

Sniper: Then, what about the professional players? Who would be your favourite?

Dowling: “I’ve plenty of players who I’ve looked up to all through the years. Ken, Ronnie, Paul Hunter. There’s been loads of players who I’ve really liked. I suppose back in the day, Stephen Hendry would have inspired me to pick up a cue. When I was nine or ten, Hendry was winning everything and I would have looked up to him a bit.”

Sniper: What’s your opinion on the current state of Irish snooker?

Dowling: “I don’t think it’s as bad as people let on. We’d all love another Ken, there’s no doubt about that. I do think that it will come, there’s been plenty of young great players over the years, and it’s not as though there’s been a lull for 30 years or anything. You had Davy Morris, Brendan O’Donoghue, David Hogan, Josh Boileau. It’s hard to make it, you need somebody special who is young and ready.”

“When I started off there used to be a hundred players or more in the ranking events and they used to start on the Friday night. I started playing the ranking events when I was 11 and I used to go to Galway or Tralee and there would be over 128. You used to start at 6pm on the Friday night, I’d get the train down and stay over. That was just the way it was at the time.

“People complain about the travelling but if you want to play, you’ll go. Nobody complains about going to Killarney for the Club Championships. Some people just love giving out and moaning but if you want to play, you’ll play anywhere.

“There are people playing, there’s no doubt about that. If you look at Killarney, there are 250 people heading down there for the Club Championships. But then you have to ask why are they not coming to the events in Carlow?”

Sniper: Are there any young players in the current rankings that you can see going quite far?

Dowling: “Cork has a good few players. You have the likes of Aaron Hill, and Ross Bulman is a fantastic young player. Noel Landers is another. I don’t want to leave out any names, but there’s a lot of young players coming through who I think have a chance of making it far.”

Sniper: Is there a tournament or memory that sticks out for either a good or bad reason?

Dowling: “The Players Tour Championship events that I went to were great, conditions wise. I remember, way back in 1997, I went to Zimbabwe for the World Amateur Championships and it was in a big arena. It was so good back then because there was only 16 of us and it was fantastic. Stuart Bingham beat me in the quarter-finals.”

“It was a brilliant tournament – the venue and the hotel were great and there was just a nice feeling to it. The conditions at the European and World Amateurs are usually lovely. Although, I will say that having air conditioning is the most important. I remember there was a World Amateurs in Egypt a number of years ago and Gary Thompson from Scotland collapsed or something playing in a match.

“Going back to my junior years, I remember one time in 1992 playing Martin McCrudden – you might have heard of him – and the under-14s was on in Tommy Martin’s in Kildare. We were 11 at the time and we were playing away from home. It was a great tournament.

“But before our semi-final match I remember this little lad coming over with a Northern accent on him and he said, ‘will you sign my case?’ – and it happened to be Martin McCrudden. Since that we’ve been the best of pals and he’s looked up to me for plenty of years. I showed him a few practice routines and he didn’t turn out to be a bad old player.”

Keep an eye out for the next “Sniper Shot” featuring former National Championship runner-up Robert Murphy.

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