VERY few counties can claim to have snooker royalty amongst their midst.
Cork, though is definitely one of those lucky counties with several great players currently and in times past coming from these shores who were super on the green blaze.
In Cork fortunately we are blessed with top-class snooker talent that goes back decades.
The 90s was a very special decade for the game with Ken Doherty lifting the professional World Championship and players like Eugene Hughes, Denis Taylor and Fergal O’Brien at their peak and of course Cork’s own Anthony O’Connor.
Now when you talk about snooker royalty the O’Connor name certainly fits the bill.
Anthony, coming from a family steeped in the game, guided by his father, the late Liam O’Connor, the real father of Cork Snooker.
Anthony played out of the wonderful 147 Club in Blackpool and my earliest memories were of Liam and his passion for the game and his connection with the people who played snooker.
Liam was a snooker man through and through, and his club in Blackpool reeked of the game, it was a real snooker club.
Liam’s son Anthony was showing signs that he could be a serious player in the late 80s and early 90s and I remember seeing his name on a board near the front door marking out his century breaks back then.
It is well known that the O’Connor family in the early years were great friends to Ken Doherty, something he never forgot during all his days in the game.
Ken and Anthony were and still are good friends, competitors and both needed to push on their dreams of making it in the professional game and as it happened both players with O’Connor in the professional game for six years from 2000 and of course the rest is history with Doherty.
O’Connor was certainly the talk of the town in Irish snooker winning everything that was there to be won, something very similar with the current talk of the town Aaron Hill.
For those who don’t know Anthony O’Connor well the similarities between himself and Hill are incredible.
A true sportsman, a gentleman on and off the table, a very modest winner and on the rare occasion a very sporting loser.
I caught up with Anthony O’Connor this week to get his thoughts on the current crop of Cork cuemen.
“We are so lucky to have so many good players, good clubs and a very competitive structure for the game in Cork,” Anthony O’Connor said.
“Aaron Hill is definitely the best snooker player ever to have come out of Cork so far and probably one of the best to have played the game in Ireland.
“What he has achieved in the game is brilliant, he is a great player an exceptional talent and with some experience he will become one of the very top professionals in the game.
“He certainly has the game and incredibly at just 18 years of age he still has so much to learn about the game and considering where he is at now, that must be a frightening thought for his opponents.”
Other players have caught the attention of Anthony O’Connor too including Youghal’s Ross Bulman.
O’Connor, whose own kids are Cork soccer stars, Liam with City and Robyn with Wilton and Cork, thinks Bulman is another player who has it all.
“Ross is another player with exceptional talent and has been a winner all through his days at national level.
“Like Aaron he impressed at the shootout and did really well at Cue School last year.
“I had an academy at Shooters snooker club and one young fella I coached was Leone Crowley and obviously Leone is an excellent young player with tons of talent and has shown already at 14 years of age that he will go all the way too.
“It is great for the likes of Leone to have an Aaron Hill in Cork, he can learn so much off Aaron and it’s not like years ago when you had to watch the telly or go to an exhibition to see the top players to pick up tips. With Aaron we already have a top class professional player on our doorstep and that is huge.”
Anthony was part of the Shooters team that won the first CBSA Cork league in the 2010/11 season when they defeated the Crucible at the AOH club.
Since that evening, bar one time, the Crucible have won the league and some of that team are very much in the top shelf as far as O’Connor is concerned.
“Look the likes of Greg Casey, David Cassidy and Ryan Cronin are super players and really are battlers and never give up and they have the Cork spirit and drive and they have dominated here in Cork, at national and international level for years now and that should never be forgotten.
“The young players,the likes of Hill, Bulman and Crowley can thank those boys for the development of their own game and I can’t wait to see where Cork snooker goes from here. All I do know is that we will see more professionals come out of Cork and that will help develop the game here for everyone.”
Ireland’s governing body the Republic of Ireland Billiards and Snooker Association have made a special announcement and decided that all its events will be postponed until at least the end of April with immediate effect.
This includes Senior, Intermediate, Challenge, Masters, all under age, Ladies and Billiards events. It has taken this step to help protect our members and their families from catching the coronavirus.
The organisation will keep monitoring the situation and will keep members informed of changes via their website and their social media pages.