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 goals for this season?
Casey: “I’d like to win a senior event and be the number one in the country. Being number one is a goal for me. I kind of set it at the start of the year along with winning a Senior event and then the National Championship is a kind of dream scenario.”
“If you could pick a tournament that you’re going to win, it’s the Nationals. Achieving number one is a realistic goal, though, as it’s right in front of me whereas the Nationals is at the end of the year.
“Honestly, winning the European Men’s Championship, pending I qualify, is another goal because I really think that I have enough to win one of them. I’m more experienced now at that level and that style so I know what it takes when you get there. I really do think I could win one if I get there.”
Sniper: What would you consider to be your most successful moment in snooker?
Casey: “It would have to be playing Ding Junhui in the World Championship, I’d say. He went on to get to the final that year.”
“It was a bit of a bad draw and a good draw because he was the number one seed in the qualifying draw. Somebody asked me if I went and qualified for the Crucible, who would I rather draw? My immediate response was Ronnie and they were wondering why because I’d just lose.
“But you’re playing one of the top 16 and you’re more than likely going to lose to whoever you play. Imagine then the feeling of playing Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible Theatre, with a packed house guaranteed. If you’re going to lose, you might as well go out against the very best.
“I lost 10-4 to Ding. I definitely left one frame behind and there were one or two others that I was involved in as well. I was just a little bit tense at the start obviously. After I won the second frame it settled me down but he hit me with an hour of just ‘sit down’ snooker.”
Sniper: Tell us about your worst defeat in snooker.
Casey: “I’ve been to two senior ranking finals that I’ve lost in and I’ve lost in six semi-finals.”
“I lost against Brendan O’Donoghue 5-4 in a final a couple of years ago and I was a bit unlucky. I lost the decider and it hurt because I played well. In the last frame, I played a nice little snooker on the final red but the red nudged the black in and it left him a free ball.
“Brendan, being the winner he is, did the damage. It was harsh because I felt like I could win it. I beat Joe Delaney that time when he was back from the main tour. But I’m hoping to crack the nut this year.
“There’s another one that I remember well from when I played Vinnie Muldoon in a National Under-15 final. I was flying against Vinnie in the final. I went 2-1 up and then he disappeared for about 15 minutes.
“I started getting agitated and it was just inexperience, you know? I remember thinking that I should have just zoned out or something but I ended up losing that one.
“Then, two years ago I lost a World Amateur Championship quarter-final to Lukas Kleckers and it just absolutely killed me. I went 4-0 down in a best of 11 before winning the fifth frame and I thought I was in it then.
“But as I was walking around chalking my cue, the end of my cue split. We got the cue taped and it’s funny because I actually played really well after that. I made a 95 and a couple of other big breaks to get back to 5-4. He was on the ropes but he got the win in the end.”
Sniper: Who would be your most difficult opponent?
Casey: “Myself and Vinnie had a fairly sold rivalry for a couple of years. It took him maybe three or four years to beat me but then he hit another level so it took me probably the same amount of time to beat him again.”
“It was a real struggle and it was a topsy-turvy battle but he turned into an amazing snooker player. He put in a lot of work and evolved massively in the game.
“Robert Murphy used to always pip me in matches. One that stands out is when I was playing the Senior National Championship at around the age of 16 and Robbie was, as he has been for the last ten or 15 years, up there at the top. I lost 5-3 but I was 60-up in the eighth frame and Robbie dished. After that, I couldn’t really beat him. He’s got a good record against me.”
Sniper: Do you have a favourite professional player?
Casey: “I like Mark Selby a lot and the way his B-game can get the job done, but it has to be Ronnie.”
“Even when his back is to the wall he just looks like he’s at ease. Every shot he’s more or less two or three inches from the ball he wants to be on. It’s how easy he makes the game look and we know that the game isn’t that easy – he’s just amazing to watch.”
Sniper: It’s a bit of a weird question but do you have any pet peeves in snooker at all?
Casey: “There’s etiquette in snooker but yeah, some things do get to me.”
“One thing that annoys me is when, if you’re starting your break and you’re on eight or ten points, your opponent puts down his cue. It’s like a rookie thing and it’s kind of silly.”
“The intelligent snooker players just don’t do that because it’s a little childish or something. A player standing in front of your pot is another one.”
Sniper: What’s your opinion on the current state of Irish snooker?
Casey: “It seems to be moving a little bit forward – a little bit – which is positive in comparison to the way it was going. I suppose making baby steps is the way to go forward but baby steps need to be followed by bigger steps.”
“I can’t understand why there’s not a tournament in Ireland that’s a Q-School qualifier. The pinnacle of our game is to turn professional, that’s the pinnacle of what we’re playing for.
“I’m telling all the young players and everybody who’ll ask me that you have to go to Q-School to understand what you’re playing and what you’re up against. It’s a different game to what we’re playing in terms of the tables, the players, and the standard.
“I was nervous for a couple of years before I went over because you have this thing in your head that they are all machines. That’s true of some of them but the ones who are that good are the ones who have been on the TV.
“The players there who are like us, you have to believe that you can beat them. You can be sure that they’ll believe it when they play you. It’s not the worst time now to be turning pro, especially with the entry fees being scrapped. That’s half the cost gone for the players so you’d hope that would encourage players here in Ireland to get back in.
“If you’re winning a few matches on the tour then you’re going to make a few quid and you can make a living from it. I’d encourage any youth player or even older player to go to Q-School as, especially with the new Challenge Tour coming in, it’s probably the best time to give it a shot.”