Rod Lawler, Fergal O’Brien, Andy Lee and Bai Langning came through Q School event one in Sheffield to earn two-year cards to the World Snooker Tour.
The quartet have earned the right to compete on the pro circuit for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons.
Former British Open champion O’Brien was relegated from the tour at the end of last season but the 50-year-old Irishman has bounced straight back. In the final round he beat Rory McLeod 4-1 in a battle between two players with a combined age of 101.
“It’s a tough week,” said former Masters finalist O’Brien, who turned pro in 1991 and had never been relegated before last season. “If you don’t get through the first event here then the pressure is only going to build. I’m really proud of the way I battled for everything and kept a good attitude. A couple of weeks ago I wasn’t even sure whether I would play in Q School. If I was going to play then I was going to give it everything.
“I don’t see myself playing more than two more years and I plan to play a limited schedule. Over the last couple of years I’ve been chasing points and haven’t always enjoyed it. That frees me up to choose the tournaments I want to play and take more breaks.”
Lawler is another veteran with more than 30 years experience on the tour. The former International Open finalist, age 50, dropped off the circuit in 2021 but is now back for two more years. He let slip a 3-1 lead against Brandon Sargeant in the final round but then dominated the decider to win 4-3.
“I’m really delighted to be back on tour,” said Liverpool’s Lawler. “I can’t give up the enjoyment of the battle, that’s what I have really missed over the past year. I’m coming towards the end of my career so I have to embrace the next two years and enjoy it.”
Hong Kong’s Lee last played on the pro tour in 2020 and now returns after a two-year absence. The 41-year-old scored a 4-2 win over Luke Simmonds, pulling away from 2-2 to take the last two frames with a top break of 57.
“It’s disbelief, I’m shocked to have got through,” said Lee. “When Covid hit in 2020 I went back to Hong Kong and I couldn’t come back to the UK. So I haven’t been playing to any kind of elite level over the past two years. I have practised occasionally with Marco Fu which has really helped.
“The last round of Q School is the worst match that any snooker player can be involved in. There is so much at stake, it’s all or nothing.”
China’s 20-year-old Bai was relegated at the end of the 2020/21 season, though he played in most ranking events last term as a top-up amateur. He now regains his tour card thanks to a narrow 4-3 victory over Sunny Akani. Thailand’s Akani led 2-0 and 3-2 and had chances for victory in each of the last two frames, but Bai won them both on the colours.
That said, objectively, it’s not great for the future of the sport that two laureates of this first 2022 Q-School Event are in their 50th, and a third one in his 40th.
Fergal doesn’t intend to play in everything. I can understand why given his age and where he stands in his career. That said, he’s a competitive animal and I’m not sure that he will actually take that many breaks!
I fully expect Rod Lawler to play as much as he can. Behind the slow going man – on and off the table – hides a determined and ferociously competitive animal.
HONG KONG BILLIARD SPORTS PUNCHES ABOVE ITS WEIGHT
to Hong Kong’s Andy Lee for once again securing his place on the WST main tour for the next two seasons. Hong Kong now has more professional players on the main tour (per capita) than any other Asian country.
This qualification through Q School is a huge boost for Hong Kong Billiard Sports as they are threatened with losing elite status from April, 2023. The players, in both snooker and pool, keep showing why they belong in the Elite Tier A level. Let’s hope that the Hong Kong Sports Commission can also see the ongoing potential in our sport in Hong Kong.
Well done Andy
Being in Tier A level is extremely important when it comes to the funding of the sport.
The match between Sunny Akani and Bai Langning was torture for me.
I like Sunny who I have met personally on multiple occasions. Long covid has hit him hard and this is probably the reason why he is in this situation now, needing to qualify for the main tour again. I’m wishing him the best for the two remaining events.
I never met Bai but he impressed me when, having spent nearly the whole 2020/21 season in China because of covid, he came back for the 2021 World Championship and reached the last 48 stage. He’s still only 20. He has a sound technique. He hasn’t got many good results on the main tour so far, but he certainly has the potential to do well. The tour needs more young players like him.
Sunny Akani came from 3-1 down to edge out Florian Nuessle 4-3 in a tense finish to reach the final round of Q School event one.
Austria’s Nuessle is aiming to earn a place on the pro tour for the first time but will have to wait for event two for another chance. Thailand’s Akani was relegated from the tour at the end of last season but now has the opportunity to bounce straight back.
The deciding frame came down to the final pink, and Akani potted it to book a meeting with China’s Bai Langning, a 4-1 winner over Leo Fernandez.
Rory McLeod top scored with 80 in a 4-1 win over Zhao Jianbo and will now face Fergal O’Brien, who beat Ross Muir 4-2 with a top run of 77. Veterans McLeod and O’Brien have a combined age of 101 and 58 seasons on the tour between them.
Brandon Sargeant saw off Harvey Chandler 4-2 with a top break of 88 and will now meet Rod Lawler, a 4-1 winner over Lukas Kleckers.
Hong Kong’s Andy Lee beat Daniel Womersley 4-1 to set up a match with Luke Simmonds, who recovered a 3-1 deficit to edge out Aaron Hill 4-3.
The winners of the four quarter-finals on Saturday in Sheffield will each receive a two year World Snooker Tour card, for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons.
Saturday’s quarter-final line-up:
Rod Lawler v Brandon Sargeant Rory McLeod v Fergal O’Brien Luke Simmonds v Andy Lee Sunny Akani v Bai Langning
Three of those players – Sunny Akani, Bai Langning and Brandon Sargeant – are in their 20th. The other ones are all over 40. That’s not great and you have to wonder why this happens. Experience plays a role of course, and maybe the level of expectations the player and their entourage put on them. Maybe older players just accept that they aren’t at their best anymore and try to enjoy it while it lasts without putting themselves under too much pressure.
Michael Georgiou, who lost to Sunny earlier yesterday, was very gracious in defeat, praising his opponent on social media, but also stating that this would be his last Q-School, meaning that if he doesn’t succeed in regaining his professional status, he would put an end to his professional snooker ambitions.
Luo Honghao seems to be the only Chinese player in the draw. That surprises me a bit but I can understand why he would choose to enter these events rather than the UK ones. The field may not be as strong and it may look like a better chance to go through.
I’m happily surprised by the turn-up: 69 players is not bad at all considering the recent years’ circumstances and the fact that it’s held for the first time.
Those who have been following snooker for some years will recognise a few names in that draw most notably Dechawat Poomjaeng … but also Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon, Thor Chuan Leong, Amir Sarkosh and Hamza Akbar.
Q-School event 1 continued in Ponds Forge over the past two days and it’s brutal.
Eden Sharav, Kurt Maflin, Iulian Boiko, Jamie Wilson, James Cahill, Ashley Carty, Daniel Wells, Peter Devlin, Martin O’Donnell, Steven Hallworth, Gao Yang, Andrew Higginson, Sanderson Lam and John Astley are all “recent” professional who lost over the last couple of days.
It’s worth noting that Gary Challis was very unlucky. He was on his way to the venue when a road accident “blocked” him. He wasn’t involved but the road got closed for a while and he was unable to get to the venue in time.
Hong Kong’s Andy Lee came from 3-0 down to secure a shock 4-3 win over former Crucible quarter-finalist Kurt Maflin at Q School event one in Sheffield.
Lee is a former professional himself, having earned a place on the tour at Q School in 2018. However, he dropped off the circuit following the 19/20 season, which was curtailed for Lee due to Covid travel restrictions.
Maflin made the last eight of the World Championship in 2020, but a loss of form over the subsequent two seasons has seen him relinquish his place on the tour.
It had looked like Norway’s Maflin was set for a comfortable win this afternoon, before Lee came roaring back into contention. A break of 72 in the sixth frame forced a decider, which he won to earn his place in round three. Next up he faces Englishman Mark Bell.
Irish 20-year-old Aaron Hill started his bid for an immediate return to the circuit with a 4-0 defeat of Connor Benzey. Hill crafted breaks of 104, 52 and 73 on his way to the win and plays Zak Surety next.
Frenchman Brian Ochoiski defeated Simon Bedford 4-2, while China’s Gao Yang progressed thanks to a 4-2 defeat of Halim Hussain.
O’Donnell also suffered relegation following the World Championship and must now turn his attentions to the second and third events, where there will be a total of eight further professional spots up for grabs.
In a hard fought encounter, it was O’Brien who had the edge this afternoon. He composed breaks of 61 and 62 on his way to the win and plays Jenson Kendrick up next.
Germany’s Lukas Kleckers saw off James Cahill by a 4-1 scoreline. Kleckers is aiming for an immediate return to the circuit, while Cahill now only has two chances remaining to avoid the prospect of a second consecutive season as an amateur. Next up for Kleckers is a round four meeting with the in form Liu Hongyu.
China’s Liu came into today having already compiled the highest break of the tournament so far, a run of 137. He eased past Alfie Lee 4-1 and added further contributions of 100 and 71.
Lee Walker progressed with a 4-2 defeat of Ashley Carty, while Rory McLeod beat Hamim Hussain 4-1.
As for today’s matches, we have some crackers in prospect:
Snooker’s first ever Asia-Oceania Q School, starting on June 1st, gives new opportunities for the most talented players in those regions to graduate to the professional tour. Two tournaments will be staged, with the finalists from both to earn a two-year card to the World Snooker Tour. So in total four players will be awarded a place on the professional circuit for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons.
So, that was this morning then. Twitath Warintrakom was conducting the ceremony. The draw was made in Thai and English. Both videos together have about one and a half hour duration. I haven’t worked out the draw yet … and might actually wait for WST to do publish it.
After a complaint made to the WPBSA by WST, Jamie O’Neill was charged with breaches of the WPBSA Members Rules and his Players Contract with WSL as a result of incidents at the Northern Ireland Qualifying Event in Leicester on Monday 23rd August 2021
The allegation was that Mr O’Neill was drunk on the morning of his match and that he made inappropriate comments and gestures toward two female members of staff. He then played his qualifying match whilst under the influence of alcohol.
The case was heard by the independent WPBSA Disciplinary Committee where after a contested hearing Mr O’Neill was found to be in breach of the WPBSA Rules and his Players Contract.
In making their decision on sanction, the Committee took into account that the finding of the Disciplinary Committee puts Mr O’Neill in breach of a suspended penalty imposed by the Disciplinary Committee on 27th May 2021. In addition, Mr O’Neill has breached two previous suspended penalties imposed under the WPBSA Disciplinary process.
Mr O’Neill was suspended from playing or being involved in WST events, effective immediately until 23.59 on 31 July 2022; and to pay a fine of £1,500 and to pay £3,200 towards the costs of the hearings.
Mr O’Neill will be suspended for the Championship League and the European Masters.
WSL Players Contract extracts:
Obligations of the Player
3.1 General Obligations
In consideration for the Player having the opportunity to participate in the WSL Events by WSL entering into this Agreement with the Player, the Player shall:
3.1.5 Behave in a professional and reputable manner befitting a professional sportsperson. 3.1.7 Not be under the influence of alcohol whilst competing in a WSL Event and at all times comply with the WPBSA Anti-Doping rules.
WPBSA Members Rules extract
1.3 A Member shall not make or cause to be made any statement or commit or cause to be committed any act which in the reasonable view of the WPBSA is likely to bring into disrepute the games of snooker and/or billiards.”
The facts are 9 months old… Considering that this is not the first time Jamie O’Neil’s conduct is inappropriate, I find the “punishment” quite light actually. The previous penalties were about inappropriate behaviour towards hotel and WST staff, as well as breach of covid rules.
I’m sure that if it was a top player behaving like this it would be all over the news and social media for days, and calls would be made for harsher punishment as this is not a first offence and it clearly brings the sport into disrepute.
Former Scottish Open semi-finalist Daniel Wells scored a comfortable win on the opening day of 2022 Q School, whitewashing Brandon Hall 4-0 in the first round of event one in Sheffield.
There are 12 professional tour cards up for grabs, across three events, over the next 18 days. The four semi-finalists of each tournament will secure their places on the World Snooker Tour for at least the next two years.
Welshman Wells, who first joined the tour in 2008, suffered relegation at the conclusion of the 2020/21 campaign. He was unsuccessful at Q School last year and bowed out in the last 16 of the recent Q Tour Playoff.
He wasted little time this afternoon, wrapping up victory in just an hour and 15 minutes. Wells fired in breaks of 95, 96, 62, 60 and 50 during the win. Wells will now receive a bye to round three, due to Simon Blackwell’s suspension.
China’s 18-year-old Liu Hongyu put on an impressive display to ease past Andy Milliard 4-1. Liu composed a tournament high break of 134, as well as runs of 79, 69 and 58, on his way to victory. Liu now faces Belgian teenager Ben Mertens in the second round.
English 15-year-old prospect Stan Moody booked his place in the second round with a 4-0 win over Italy’s Mirko Montrasio. Next up for Moody is a second round tie against Mark Lloyd.
There were a number of withdrawals/no-shows in the first round and it affected mainly players from Pakistan. This suggests either visa or travel issues.
Alex Clenshaw, who was finalist at the Q-Tour play-offs, was narrowly beaten by Wang Yuchen from China. Wang is now 24 years old and was part of a group of promising young prospects when, ten years ago, I had the opportunity to go to an APTC in Yixing. At the time, the center of all attentions was Lyu Haotian. But Wang caught my eyes because he was different from the other boys. For a start, he was the only one able to speak English, and he was fluent at it. He was also the only one willing to engage with “strangers”. At the time he had told me that his family has roots in Hong-Kong and that his father insisted that he should complete his education and not focus solely on his snooker. Himself, still only 14, was mature enough to understand the importance of keeping more than one “future” alley open even if that meant less time for practice. Yesterday, Wang was narrowly beaten by Sean Harvey in round 2.
Thailand’s 17-year-old Nattanapong Chaikul scored a shock 4-3 win over Michael Holt on the second day of Q School event one in Sheffield.
Chaikul is competing in Q School for the first time and also survived a deciding frame in round one, beating China’s Haohui Deng 4-3 on the final black.
Former Shoot Out champion Holt arrived at Q School as one of the favourites to gain a fresh two-year tour card, having dropped off the circuit following the recent World Championship.
Holt will now have further opportunities at events two and three. There are 12 places up for grabs overall, with the four semi-finalists from each tournament earning professional status.
Chaikul looked impressive against his far more experienced opponent. He fired in breaks of 75, 54 and 59 on his way to establishing a 3-2 advantage. Holt forced a decider, but a break of 79 from Chaikul secured the win. He now faces Brandon Sargeant in the next round.
Chinese 18-year-old Liu Hongyu continued to impress, with a 4-3 win over Belgian prospect Ben Mertens. Liu has now composed the two biggest breaks of the event so far, having added a run of 137 today in addition to the 134 he made yesterday. Liu now plays Alfie Lee.
Germany’s Lukas Kleckers bounced back from his tour relegation with a 4-0 defeat of James Burrett, while Rod Lawler also secured a whitewash 4-0 win against Faizaan Mohammed.
Former Shoot Out champion Michael Holt believes a positive mindset is crucial if he is to earn an immediate return to the World Snooker Tour at Q School.
Holt is just one of a number of top players who suffered unexpected relegations from the professional circuit after World Championship qualifying last month. The Nottingham cueman was joined by the likes of Kurt Maflin and Fergal O’Brien in falling off the tour. Q School begins on Monday (16th), with Holt getting his campaign underway on Tuesday.
Dropping off the circuit was a difficult moment for Holt to come to terms with, having been a professional for 25 seasons since joining the tour in 1996. However, he admits that the damage was done long before he arrived at the English Institute of Sport for his qualifying matches.
The final death knell came with a 6-3 loss to Tom Ford, a match which had he won would have ensured his safety. Looking back, he admits that the qualifiers came with a brand of pressure which he hadn’t witnessed thus far in his career.
“I was disappointed, but I can’t put it on that match. I shouldn’t have been in that position going into the World Championship. It is my own fault and it is heartbreaking to have dropped off. I am where I am. I now have to go to Q School and get through. My game is still there. What can I do? I just have to prepare for it and see how I go,” said 43-year-old Holt.
“The situation completely took away any thoughts about the Crucible. All I wanted to do was to win my next match and be safe. If I’d got to Judgement Day, then I’d have thought about it. All I wanted was to save my tour spot and it was all or nothing. You have to win your matches and I didn’t. It happens every year to players and this time it happened to me. I tried and I failed.
“It is a different sort of pressure. The pressure of a final is trying to win the event, with a worst case scenario of a nice cheque. The pressure of falling off tour brings a different feeling. It is more heartbreak if it doesn’t go right. I actually played alright at the World Championship. If you let it come down to one event, the balls can go the wrong way and you can lose. That wasn’t why I fell off, it was what came before.”
Throughout Holt’s career he has been open about the mental battles which he has faced, as he chases his own expectations and the fulfilment of his potential. Despite having reached three ranking finals and landed maiden silverware at the Shoot Out in 2020, he has been left frustrated not to have accumulated more accolades in his career. However, he hopes that if he can battle his way back onto the circuit, it can act as a catalyst for a more positive mindset, which in turn could yield better results.
Holt explained: “If I do get through, I’ve said to myself that I have to try to enjoy it more. You don’t know what you have until it has gone. As much as I have been appreciative of snooker over the years, I haven’t enjoyed it anywhere near as much as I should have. It’s a tragedy that I haven’t enjoyed it more, as I don’t have that many good memories. It has been a bit of an ordeal at times. Life is too short.
“If I don’t get back on I know I’m certainly not too old, so I will only stop when I can’t play to the required level. That simply isn’t the case and ironically I’m playing better than I ever have before. I’m not too proud to play in anything, I’m not like that. If I need to play events in clubs to get back on, then I will do that.
“It means a lot to everyone. Even the guys who make out that they don’t care like Mark Williams, do care and it means a lot to them. I can’t say that I want it too much or that I should have done more. In anyone’s career, you achieve what you deserve. It is the underperforming that kills you, not the losing. Ronnie O’Sullivan has lost more events than he has won and he is the best player in history. You can get contentment from doing as well as you can.
“I’ve said all the way through this nightmare, that the game is there. I thought to drop off tour I would have to be completely gone in every way and that hasn’t been the case. It is about results and I just haven’t got them. When I allow myself to play, I am performing at a very high level. It is all about allowing myself to play well, that is the battle. If I take the shackles off then I’ll be alright.”
Due to the season finishing, many of Holt’s regular practice partners have stopped playing for the summer. However, the Hitman has partnered up with a fellow victim of tour relegation Steven Hallworth. The pair have been working hard together on the practice table and hope that they will reap the rewards when Q School gets underway in Sheffield next week.
“There aren’t many players still practising, but Steven Hallworth is in the same position as me and we have been playing together. The first session wasn’t that good, because our hearts were still broken. We have both been working towards this though and it is on the horizon now. We have another session booked in this week. It is all about mentally preparing for it. Those who are entering it for the first time will be chipper and looking forward to it, for the guys dropping off tour it is about coming to terms with being there. The ex tour players have to deal with the mental side and try to turn up with the right attitude. You need to have a positive mindset to get through.”
It is a very interesting insight into the psychology of a player who drops off the tour but firmly believes he’s still more than good enough, and Michael most certainly is still good enough. Yesterday’s defeat will be a hard blow. It will be interesting to see if/how he bounces back. It’s hard not to care, and it’s easy to care too much, to put too much pressure on oneself.
Other than that, like every year, I really wonder why some players do enter this series of events. There are players who are well past 40, have never done anything in the game and came from outside UK to enter this. Why? What do they expect?
There is only one female player in the draw. I’s the fourth time she enters the Q-School. She has played 8 matches in Q-Schools in total so far, 32 frames and hasn’t won a single frame yet.
Of, course they have every right to enter but I can’t help to wonder why they do it. Entry fees, hotel … it’s not cheap.
Laila Rouass shares how she got back together with snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan
Footballers’ Wives actress and Strictly star Laila Rouass has opened up about how she and fiancé Ronnie O’Sullivan rekindled their romance, following their shock split earlier this year
Actress Laila Rouass has opened up about how she and fiancé Ronnie O’Sullivan found their way back to each other after their breakup.
Footballers’ Wives star Laila met snooker world champion Ronnie by accident while she was house hunting in 2012.
The couple got engaged just a year later but never actually married.
They saddened fans when they announced they would separate after more than a decade together.
Appearing on Loose Women today, the 50-year-old revealed she and Ronnie had already been broken up for eight months when they made the news public in February.
However, over the last few weeks there was plenty of speculation about the couple giving their relationship another go with Laila snapped wearing her engagement ring again.
A friend of the pair told The Mirror at the time: “The love is still there.
“It seems like they are giving things another go. Nothing is ever straightforward when it comes to Ronnie but there’s a lot of love there.”
Laila has now confirmed the happy news on the lunchtime chat show and said they had “found our way back”.
She told the show’s panellists: “Me and Ronnie are back together, we found our way back.
“We just worked it out – back when I announced it, we hadn’t been together for almost eight months at that time.
She added: “Talking is so underrated. If you can sit down and say how you feel and what you want – when you get older that is much easier to say too.”
During the chat, Laila also revealed the snooker ace has been “feeling flat” ever since winning the world championship in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
She said: “Ronnie, he’s just won the seventh world title and he’s come back home and he feels flat.
It’s probably not surprising that Ronnie feels a bit flat. After 17 days spending huge amounts of nervous energy that’s to be expected.
Also I had known since september that they were no more together but had been asked to keep it quiet. That, in itself, suggested to me that things might not be as “definitely over” as they might have appeared. All couples go through crisis and they are both at a critical age. Mid forthies is often the time when our outlook on life changes, and, may I say so, women in particular, go through some hormonal changes that can have a huge impact on their life and even personality. Men maybe too but I can’t speak for them… 😉I’m glad they found the courage to talk about it honestly and are giving it another go.