Aaron Hill will be a professional player next season after winning the European Under-21 Championship in Portugal on Saturday.
Following a 5-2 victory over Hayden Staniland in the final, the Irishman adds the prestigious European Under-21 amateur title to the Under-18 crown that he successfully defended a few days ago in Albufeira.
Hill’s reward for the latter is a place in the World Snooker Championship qualifying rounds next month in Sheffield.
However, the spoils for claiming silverware in the European Under-21 discipline are much more significant, with the Cork cueist now set to receive a two-year Main Tour card.
Hill follows in the footsteps of countrymen Josh Boileau, who triumphed four years ago, and TJ Dowling, who earned success in the inaugural staging back in 1997 when the tournament was originally contested at an Under-19 level.
The 18 year-old showed no signs of fatigue from his earlier exploits on the Iberian Peninsula, winning all three of his round-robin fixtures to the loss of just a single frame.
Hill subsequently beat Patrik Tihonen at the start of the knockout stages before overcoming local rival Ross Bulman, the 2019 runner-up, in the last 16.
Comfortable victories over Mark Lloyd and Ben Mertens sent Hill through to the final, where he quickly established a 4-0 advantage against Staniland.
The Englishman rallied and pulled a couple of frames back to make things interesting, but Hill composed himself to seal the silverware in the seventh frame.
Glory for the youngster caps a remarkable couple of years in which he has rapidly risen through the ranks at amateur level.
Hill has won numerous underage national titles in the last few years and announced himself as a genuine domestic force last season by capturing a brace of senior ranking trophies in Ireland.
In a time when Irish snooker has been generally struggling, Hill’s emergence could not be any more timely.
Veteran Dubliners Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien have been flying the tricolour flag for three decades, but they are both at risk of being relegated from the Main Tour this season.
That would have left the possibility of there not being a single representation from the Republic of Ireland on the professional circuit next term.
Thankfully, that won’t now materialise to be the case after Hill’s magnificent achievement.
Featured photo credit: PJ Nolan