AARON Hill had won practically everything in the amateur game in Ireland, the UK and Europe.
His European U21 triumph in March 2020 elevated the 18-year-old Cork snooker sensation in the eyes of snooker enthusiasts around the world.
He backed that up and stunned the experts at the WST European Masters with a win over Andy Hicks and then defeated the six-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan on a night that Cork snooker will never forget.
“I really was amazed at myself at how up for it I was and I was really buzzing and completely believed I would win the match, it was all a bit unreal to be honest.
"I would have been happy not being behind at the interval and to go in 3-1 up was fantastic. Everyone watching then saw O’Sullivan win the next three frames and must have thought that was it, but I never gave up and when I won the eighth frame to make it 4-4, I thought you have every chance here.
"I got a great bit of luck in the decider and I kept it together and managed to get over the line for the win and I knew that the game could change my life and it has really and I loved every second of it.
"I was definitely more nervous in my European U21 final against Staniland than I was against Ronnie. I was really excited playing against Ronnie and my confidence was really at an all-time high.
"I enjoyed that match so much and I have heard the nice things Ronnie said about me prior to the game at the Shootout and the really nice things he has said since.
"For him to say those things about me means the world to me and gives me even more confidence.”
Next up for Hill was a tough last 32 game against Welsh snooker star Matthew Stephens and it was as tough a match as Hill expected it to be he said
"That match against Matthew Stephens was tough and it took all that I had to win it and I had to be at my best.
"Stephens is a warrior and never gives up and for me to come through that match and move into the last 16 was just unreal. Again my confidence was exceptional and I was loving every second of it."
Unfortunately, Hill lost out to Yan Bingtao in the last 16.
“That was a very frustrating match, I lost 5-1 but I led in every frame, but I just could not get going, I broke down each time.
"I suppose playing Matthew Stephens earlier that day in a long match, plus only getting a 50-minute break in between games was tough.
"It takes it out of you mentally and physically and it took its toll on me, but it was a fantastic tournament for me and I learned so much from it."
Hill has found the very enclosed environment of the Marshall Arena in Milton Keyes tough to adjust to, but he is not alone there.
“Honestly there would be way more atmosphere above in the Crucible at times, but I suppose that is the way it has to be at the moment with all the restrictions.
"Everyone loves the real WST tour with places like China on the event calendar, and many more, so being in the one huge club for weeks on end can be tough in terms of motivating yourself. Most of the players are finding the restrictions tough.
"Hopefully things will improve for next season and we all have the World snooker championship qualifiers to look forward to, but it would be nice to have a bit more of a life outside the arena, that would certainly help."
Hill has had a run of tough matches against the likes of Kurt Maflin and Jackson Page where he led 3-0 in both games only to lose out in the end. There were also matches against Liang Wenbo and Peter Devlin where Hill did not play anywhere near his best.
However, a win over Billy Joe Castle who defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan earlier last year in the Shootout earned him 3,000 ranking points shows how competitive the WST is.
"I am looking forward to the remainder of the season. I have learned so much this year already.
"There is a big adjustment between the amateur game and the professional tour where the standard is so high and the lifestyle is so different, but I am learning and I am confident I can do well.
"The first year was always going to be tough and it was always going to be an eye-opener for me as a player and as a person.
"I would be lost without my long-time sponsor Tomás Singleton who has been with me for a few years now and my new partner sponsor the Macau Sporting Club and Casino. It isn’t cheap being a player and with my family and close friends right behind me, I can achieve anything.
"I have a few tricks up my sleeve yet and I am looking forward to the future."