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O’Brien to bring curtain down on 30-year career

Fergal O’Brien will retire from professional snooker at the end of the current season, ending a career which has spanned over 30 years.

The former British Open winner and 2001 Masters finalist has decided to move into other aspects of the game including media work and coaching.

O’Brien was relegated from the professional tour last year but quickly regained his status in Q School.

However he has opted to move away from the World Snooker Tour, at least on the table.

Speaking to RTÉ Sport, he said: “I’m initially sad at the thought of not playing anymore because obviously I’ve been a professional for 33 years. It’s been my life.

“I could be on my own playing, you know, happy as anything, just playing. So obviously I’ll still be playing, but obviously not the same amount or the same intensity. I will miss that.

“I always loved practice as well. It never felt like a hardship or making sacrifices for it. I always really enjoyed it, but obviously back in the day I was here for a 10am start playing five, six hours.

“That’s probably another little challenge as well. The routine won’t be as set. It was early to bed up early at the club practicing.

“Obviously I have had some success. I would have liked more, of course, but I think ultimately for me, you know, without sounding too corny, the journey is the reward. I always wanted to play snooker.

“I loved playing snooker and even the bad days and the disappointments were still, in some ways fulfilling. You’re still alive. You still felt something.

“I loved playing. I didn’t want to do anything else. But as I said, I’m fortunate now that I do have other options still in snooker. That’s going to soften the blow.”

O’Brien has already spent time coaching young players and is looking to broaden that work.

“There’s kind of been a Plan B in the last couple of years,” he added.

“Obviously I’ve been busy doing the coaching in the last year or two and fortunate enough that this season I’ve started doing some commentary for Eurosport.

“Outside the playing, for me, the two best things will be doing the commentary and then the coaching. It’s not so going to be so bad.”

Taking on Ken Doherty at the Irish Masters in 1998

Aaron Hill is flying the flag for the Republic of Ireland with some good performances this year including a quarter-final at the Wuhan Open.

O’Brien has also been impressed by two more Cork players and, having already worked with Hill, has hinted he may try to help the next generation of Irish players.

He added: “Aaron has got bags of potential and great game. We’re starting to see him establish himself on the tour. And again, he’s going through that learning process, almost like an apprenticeship to serve. He fell off the tour got back on through Q School. And you can see that’s probably strengthened him again.

“He works hard. He’s hungry. That’s the main ingredient. There’s loads of talented players all around the world. But how bad do you want it and what are you prepared to do for it? He seems to be ticking those boxes nicely.

“Apart from Aaron Hill being on tour, two more of the young lads from Cork, Ross Bulman and Leon Crowley, are emerging.

“They definitely have a lot of potential to get on tour and certainly make a career out of the game as well.

“Maybe that’s down the road for the likes of myself with the great amateur structure there is [to work] with those lads that are looking to become professional.

“There’s a lot of mistakes they won’t have to make because I’ve already made them.

“The 30 years experience I have [could be of use to players starting out now].

“The playing of snooker is the easy bit. It’s the travelling, it’s the preparations, the dealing with disappointments, your expectations, others’ expectations and a million and one other things that obviously I went through.

“I definitely think a bit of a role to play there to try and push that [to become a mentor in Ireland].”

O’Brien has also targeted a role in potentially bringing a tournament back to the Republic of Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Open in Belfast is an annual fixture but he is keen to bring another event to the island down south.

He explained: “That’s another probably project for me when I have stopped playing, I think definitely you could somehow get a ranking event or even the likes of the Irish Masters back, which we had back in the day and was fantastic.

“Obviously Goffs is still there and it’s still a great venue. It gets used for some senior events and I think maybe if you had RTÉ on board, Goffs and then a big sponsor, I think you could still run it.

“The game is still very popular here and I think there’s a market there that if you had a good tournament that is run well, you would get the people to play.

“So hopefully that could happen in the near future for the likes of an Aaron Hill and other young players to play in their home country and promote the game even more.”


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