Cork sports star of the year: Aaron Hill was a snooker sensation in 2020

Cork sports star of the year: Aaron Hill was a snooker sensation in 2020

Ronnie O'Sullivan greets Cork snooker star Aaron Hill prior to their match

AARON HILL, at just 18 years of age, has had a remarkable amateur career, winning practically everything there was to win in the game.

These successes included three European titles, and back in February 2020 his dream of becoming a professional snooker player became a reality.

Everyone expected that the brilliant amateur would someday become a fully-fledged WST Tour Pro but when Hill won the European U21 title in Portugal, which gave him an automatic two-year tour card, it took Irish snooker by storm that he had made the transformation so quickly.

Naturally, everyone wondered how Hill would cope, but those close to the young Cork snooker ace knew that he would embrace the game at the top level like no other.

The Covid-19 lockdown threw everything out the window but Hill just knuckled down to putting in as much practice time as he could on his table.

Hill got involved with a lot of Irish snooker players with an online charity initiative called the ‘Blue Ball Challenge’ and had a series of online games and while practising at home he knocked in his first 147 maximum break — today he has had over ten maximums and like all of Hill’s achievements they all came from his amazing ability to learn things very quickly.

Hill’s win over England’s Hayden Stainland in the EBSA U21 final had given him the keys to the kingdom of the professional game and it was now up to the Cathedral Road man to walk in and make the best possible start.

Hill’s first real taste of the pro game came at the BetVictor Shootout in Watford and that was still as an amateur when he met Mark Allen’s stepson Robbie McGuigan in the first round of the popular ten minute game against the clock with the emphasis on spectator interaction and Hill revelled in the unique boisterous atmosphere winning 50-15 to progress on to meet world finalist and world number eight Kyron Wilson.

Hill was amazing against Wilson knocking in a 47 break to move into the last 32 of the event and it was obvious to everyone that Hill was adapting brilliantly in front of the cameras and received glowing compliments from the six-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan who would get to see the young Cork star at close hand a few months later.

Hill went out of the shootout in the last 32 in a strange game against seasoned professional Craig Steadman, but he enjoyed the experience.

“I loved it, the atmosphere was brilliant and the crowd were amazing. I love the format, you have to think really quickly and when the 10-second shot clock kicks in for the last five minutes you have to be on your toes, I would love to play it again.”

Cork snooker star Aaron Hill and Ray Nugent of Suit Distributors, who are supporting the northside man on his quest to the top of world snooker.
Cork snooker star Aaron Hill and Ray Nugent of Suit Distributors, who are supporting the northside man on his quest to the top of world snooker.

Hill will of course be involved in the next two shootouts at least as a professional player, but now he needed to get ready for his first event as a professional at the European 2020 championship league.

He was in the group with David Gilbert and the Chinese players Lu Ning and Xu Si at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keyes.

Hill lost out to Gilbert even though he won the first frame and then lost to Lu Ning, but won 3-1 against Xu Si to pick up his first prize money as a professional.

Nobody could have been prepared for what was to come in the European Masters a few days later as Hill saw off Andy Hicks 5-2 in the first round, which meant that he would be up against his childhood hero and idol Ronnie O’Sullivan in round two.

The odds with the bookmakers were staggeringly against the young Cork man, but those who know the game and, in particular, Aaron Hill knew that he would battle hard to cause one of the biggest upsets in the game — coincidentally coming just days after the Rocket had made some very disparaging comments about young players coming into the game.

Hill was, as ever, as cool as a breeze and took a 2-0 lead, O’Sullivan made it 2-1 winning the third frame, but Hill was playing excellent snooker winning the next two frames to lead 4-1, just one frame from a famous win.

O’Sullivan came back winning three frames in a row to level the match and everyone assumed that O’Sullivan would breeze to victory, but Hill had other ideas and with a bit of luck he got in and would knock in a 78 break and knock out the six-time world champion.

Suddenly everyone knew who Aaron Hill was!

“I am thrilled to win, but I came here to win the match, not just turn up, and I really enjoyed the game,” said Hill in his after-match interview.

Hill now faced Matthew Stevens, another iconic name in the game of snooker, and again played the table not the occasion and saw off the Welsh legend by five frames to three to set up a last 16 match against China’s Yan Bingtao.

Hill was ahead in every frame against the Chinese star, but just couldn’t get going and lost 5-1, but a star was born and Irish snooker had something to smile about.

Since that tournament Hill has struggled a bit, but that is understandable as he is still learning his trade and everyone is looking forward to January when he is back on the baize again.

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