Fergal O'Brien
Main News, Ranking, World Championship

Fergal O’Brien retires: five memorable moments

Fergal O’Brien ended his 33-year tenure as a professional snooker player on Tuesday after losing 10-8 to Mostafa Dorgham in Sheffield.

The popular Irishman, who announced earlier this season that this would be his last, had aspirations of playing at the Crucible Theatre for the first time in seven years.

But a disappointing reverse in the opening round of the World Snooker Championship qualifiers brought the curtain down on a long career among the sport’s elite.

Here we take a look at a few of the Dubliner’s most memorable moments and achievements on the main tour.

Ranking event champion

Having first turned professional in 1991, Fergal O’Brien had established himself as a worthy opponent for any of the top stars by the middle of the decade.

He featured prominently in the Ireland side that reached the final of the World Cup in 1996, eventually losing to a Scottish unit that included Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, and Alan McManus.

By the end of the 1990s, O’Brien had started making appearances at the business end of ranking events more regularly.

Glory at that level duly came at the 1999 British Open, when the then 27 year-old beat Higgins in the semi-finals and Anthony Hamilton in the final to etch his name onto the silverware.

O’Brien would later feature in two more finals with ranking points on the line – finishing as the runner-up in the 2007 Northern Ireland Trophy and again at the Gdynia Open PTC event of 2014.

Masters disappointment

The 2001 Masters final is fondly remembered for the comeback heroics of Paul Hunter, who enlisted an infamous “Plan B” to fight back from behind and claim the prestigious title for the first of three times.

Hunter’s opponent that day was, of course, Fergal O’Brien.

Participating in the invitational for only the second time, O’Brien beat world number one Mark Williams 6-5 in the first round.

A 6-2 triumph over fellow Dubliner Ken Doherty followed, and he subsequently reached the final with a 6-4 defeat of Dave Harold.

Everything was looking good for a maiden success in one of snooker’s majors, but O’Brien squandered a 7-3 lead as Hunter powered back with a burst of scoring before edging a dramatic decider.

Two-hour decider

Speaking of deciders, O’Brien was involved in another for the ages during qualification for the 2017 World Snooker Championship.

Already known for his dogged, never-say-die attitude and a robust temperament that earned him the nickname “Fearless Fergal”, O’Brien took it to extremes against David Gilbert in the final preliminary round in Sheffield that year.

The scores locked at 9-9 and with the winner set to book a hot ticket at the Crucible Theatre, O’Brien and Gilbert couldn’t be separated in a remarkable final frame that broke the all-time duration record.

After 123 minutes and 41 seconds, which included a half-hour battle on the yellow, O’Brien finally got over the winning line and entered the World Championship main draw for what proved to be his final time.

A top ten player

O’Brien, who scored a century break in his first ever frame at the Crucible in 1993, had a knack for losing regularly in the last round of the World Championship qualifiers.

As a result, he doesn’t feature in the history of the sport’s blue-riband competition as much as his long career probably merits.

But he did have his moments in Sheffield, particularly during a spell from 1998 to 2002 when he played at the Crucible five times in a row.

O’Brien’s finest hour at snooker’s spiritual home came in 2000, about a year after he had won the British Open and not long before he was to be denied at the Masters.

With victories against Chris Small and Stephen Lee, O’Brien reached the quarter-finals where his challenge was to be ended by eventual champion Mark Williams.

His consistency around that time helped to establish him as a top ten player, reaching a career-high of number nine in the world rankings.

Five-ton Fergal

O’Brien may have been known for his ability to grind out wins with a taxing style of play, but he could score heavily when in form as well.

He is one of only 43 people to have compiled more than 200 century breaks on the main tour.

Five of those were constructed in an incredible second-round match at the UK Championship in 2016.

During a 6-5 defeat of Barry Hawkins, O’Brien tallied a fantastic five century breaks that broke the record for a best-of-11 contest.

A well-liked character from the snooker circuit, we wish Fergal O’Brien a very happy retirement.


World Snooker Championship qualifiers draw

All matches are the best of 19 frames played across two sessions.
Scorelines in italics indicate the end of the first session.

Qualifier 1

RouteR1
Times
R2
Times
R3
Times
R4
Times
1Jimmy White
w/o
Martin Gould
Jimmy White
3-10
Liu Hongyu
Liu Hongyu
4-10
Jack Lisowski
Jack Lisowski
10-3
Matthew Stevens
2Ryan Thomerson
3-10
Liam Davies
Liam Davies
2-10
Jimmy Robertson
Jimmy Robertson
6-10
Matthew Stevens

Qualifier 2

RouteR1
Times
R2
Times
R3
Times
R4
Times
3Ian Burns
10-1

Dean Young
Ian Burns
10-7

Mark Joyce
Ian Burns
7-10
Ricky Walden
Ricky Walden
10-9
Mark Davis
4Andy Lee
9-10
Andrew Pagett
Andrew Pagett
2-10
Mark Davis
Mark Davis
10-8

Thepchaiya Un-Nooh

Qualifier 3

RouteR1
Times
R2
Times
R3
Times
R4
Times
5Rory Thor
10-2

Hamza Ilyas
Rory Thor
8-10
David Grace
David Grace
6-10
Dominic Dale
Dominic Dale
10-8
He Guoqiang
6Ross Muir
10-9

Cheung Ka Wai
Ross Muir
8-10
He Guoqiang
He Guoqiang
10-5

Anthony McGill

Qualifier 4

RouteR1
Times
R2
Times
R3
Times
R4
Times
7Alfie Burden
10-1

Rebecca Kenna
Alfie Burden
10-3

Xu Si
Alfie Burden
5-10
Jamie Jones
Jamie Jones
10-9
Neil Robertson
8Ishpreet Singh Chadha
6-10
Gao Yang
Gao Yang
6-10
Zak Surety
Zac Surety
2-10
Neil Robertson

Qualifier 5

RouteR1
Times
R2
Times
R3
Times
R4
Times
9Sean O’Sullivan
8-10
Bulscu Revesz
Bulscu Revesz
8-10
James Cahill
James Cahill
0-10
Zhou Yuelong
Zhou Yuelong
4-10
Jak Jones
10Andres Petrov
10-1

Ahmed Elsayed
Andres Petrov
7-10
Jamie Clarke
Jamie Clarke
6-10
Jak Jones

Qualifier 6

RouteR1
Times
R2
Times
R3
Times
R4
Times
11Adam Duffy
10-5

Mink Nutcharut
Adam Duffy
4-10
Ashley Hugill
Ashley Hugill
7-10
Stephen Maguire
Stephen Maguire
10-6
Yuan Sijun
12Andrew Higginson
10-7

Duane Jones
Andrew Higginson
8-10
Michael White
Michael White
8-10
Yuan Sijun

Qualifier 7

RouteR1
Times
R2
Times
R3
Times
R4
Times
13Louis Heathcote
10-4

Oliver Sykes
Louis Heathcote
10-7

Oliver Lines
Louis Heathcote
10-8
Elliot Slessor
Louis Heathcote
8-10
Stuart Bingham
14Stuart Carrington
10-5

Himanshu Jain
Stuart Carrington
10-9

Liam Highfield
Stuart Carrington
9-10
Stuart Bingham

Qualifier 8

RouteR1
Times
R2
Times
R3
Times
R4
Times
15Alexander Ursenbacher
10-0

Iulian Boiko
Alexander Ursenbacher
7-10
Anthony Hamilton
Anthony Hamilton
5-10
Robbie Williams
Robbie Williams
10-9
Chris Wakelin
16Allan Taylor
10-6

Vladislav Gradinari
Allan Taylor
9-10
Lukas Kleckers
Lukas Kleckers
5-10
Chris Wakelin

Qualifier 9

RouteR1
Times
R2
Times
R3
Times
R4
Times
17Marco Fu
10-1

Baipat Siripaporn
Marco Fu
10-6

Ken Doherty
Marco Fu
4-10
Hossein Vafaei
Hossein Vafaei
10-5
Jiang Jun
18Jiang Jun
10-6

Amir Sarkhosh
Jiang Jun
10-8

Fan Zhengyi
Jiang Jun
10-8
Sam Craigie

Qualifier 10

RouteR1
Times
R2
Times
R3
Times
R4
Times
19Hammad Miah
2-10
Haydon Pinhey
Haydon Pinhey
3-10
Julien Leclercq
Julien Leclercq
1-10
Joe O’Connor
Joe O’Connor
10-8

Matthew Selt
20Daniel Womersley
w/o
Muhammad Asif
Daniel Womersley
3-10
Aaron Hill
Aaron Hill
4-10
Matthew Selt

Qualifier 11

RouteR1
Times
R2
Times
R3
Times
R4
Times
21Ma Hailong
10-1

Victor Sarkis
Ma Hailong
10-7

Martin O’Donnell
Ma Hailong
4-10
Cao Yupeng
Cao Yupeng
8-10
Pang Junxu
22Oliver Brown
10-0

Reanne Evans
Oliver Brown
10-8

Dylan Emery
Oliver Brown
7-10
Pang Junxu

Qualifier 12

RouteR1
Times
R2
Times
R3
Times
R4
Times
23Fergal O’Brien
8-10
Mostafa Dorgham
Mostafa Dorgham
5-10
Graeme Dott
Graeme Dott
5-10
Jackson Page
Jackson Page
10-9
Noppon Saengkham
24Long Zehuang
10-1

Sydney Wilson
Long Zehuang
2-10
Andy Hicks
Andy Hicks
5-10
Noppon Saengkham

Qualifier 13

RouteR1
Times
R2
Times
R3
Times
R4
Times
25Rod Lawler
10-7

Gong Chenzhi
Rod Lawler
9-10
Ben Mertens
Ben Mertens
9-10
Si Jiahui
Si Jiahui
10-4
Wu Yize
26Stan Moody
6-10
Mohamed Shehab
Mohamed Shebab
8-10
Tian Pengfei
Tian Pengfei
8-10
Wu Yize

Qualifier 14

RouteR1
Times
R2
Times
R3
Times
R4
Times
27Xing Zihao
10-6

Michael Holt
Xing Zihao
5-10
Daniel Wells
Daniel Wells
8-10
Lyu Haotian
Lyu Haotian
10-7
Jenson Kendrick
28Jenson Kendrick
10-7

Bai Yulu
Jenson Kendrick
10-8

Ben Woollaston
Jenson Kendrick
10-5

Jordan Brown

Qualifier 15

RouteR1
Times
R2
Times
R3
Times
R4
Times
29Liam Pullen
10-3

Anton Kazakov
Liam Pullen
8-10
Sanderson Lam
Sanderson Lam
2-10
Xiao Guodong
Xiao Guodong
6-10
David Gilbert
30Peng Yisong
10-5

Manasawin Phetmalaikul
Peng Yisong
9-10
David Lilley
David Lilley
4-10
David Gilbert

Qualifier 16

RouteR1
Times
R2
Times
R3
Times
R4
Times
31Mohamed Ibrabim
6-10
Peter Lines
Peter Lines
6-10
Scott Donaldson
Scott Donaldson
10-6
Joe Perry
Scott Donaldson
9-10
Ryan Day
32Ashley Carty
10-4

Liam Graham
Ashley Carty
6-10
John Astley
John Astley
6-10
Ryan Day

Featured photo credit: WST

4 Comments

  1. Yes I saw the end of Fergal O’Brien’s final match. We gave him a round of applause afterwards. Mostafa Dorgham played really well at the end to win.

    You mentioned the 2-hour decider. I actually attended the previous match against Tian Pengfei, which finished at 2:30am after a similarly epic decider (about 90 minutes). That was Fergal’s problem – he got so tense in these matches that it would inevitably turn into an epic.

    But he’s been a fine servant to the game and to Irish snooker. I really hope to hear him in commentary, because i think he’s one of the best.

    • I should have said I also witnessed the 5-ton match in the UK Championship. As usual, I was watching 3 tables simultaneously, and every time I looked up, he was on another break!

  2. Jay Brannon

    Fergal O’Brien in Numbers:

    1 ranking title
    10 Crucible appearances
    3 Masters appearances
    2 ranking finals
    3 ranking semi-finals
    14 ranking quarter-finals
    3 seasons in the top 16
    28 years in the top 64
    240 career centuries
    1 maximum break
    2 Irish Classic titles
    2 UK Championship quarter-finals
    5 Triple Crown quarter-finals

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