SNOOKER: Dubliner O’Brien hangs up his cue after 33 years

by Gazette Reporter
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BY Rory Merriman

Dubliner, Fergal O’Brien announced his retirement as a professional snooker player at the end of last season following 33-years in the job.

Now 51, the Bay side native first picked up a cue at the age of 7. “One Christmas I got a very small table from my grandparents, a tiny table that you can fit on a kitchen counter. Then the following year I got an 8 x 4 table and that was a massive deal for 8-year-old me at the time,” O’Brien told the Echo Newspaper.

“I started going to the snooker club with my dad in Fairview when I was about 12. That then followed with me travelling all over the country competing in different tournaments in Ireland. I ended up giving up playing football when I was 14, and that was when I realised that I wanted to become a professional.”

Nicknamed Fearless Fergal, O’Brien moved to England when he finished school to what was known back then as a snooker hot spot, Ilford in East London.

“Of course, I had to stay and finish school until I was 18, and at 19 then, I moved to England and that was the start.”

In the height of his career, O’Brien moved back to the emerald Isle in 1997 and resided to Lucan, Dublin 22 where he still lives to this day.

“My wife’s from Lucan and as you know they always want to be closed to their mammy, so we’ve lived here ever since,” he joked with the Echo Newspaper.

“I played in Rafeals snooker club in Lucan from 1997 until 2008 when it closed. It was great.”

O’Brien’s greatest achievement in the sport was Winning the decorative ranking title that is the British Open in 1999, where he defeated Anthony Hamilton 9-7 in the final.

Speaking fondly of his treasured victory, O’Brien revealed, “A couple of weeks before hand, they had announced the Wildcard for the Irish masters. Another Irish player had been given the wildcard, whereas I felt I should have gotten it. So as Michael Jordan would say ‘I took that personally.’

“From there I kind of felt I had something to prove and so I vowed that I would win my next tournament to stick it to them as such.

“The grandad who had bought me my first table had also just died around that time and he had been a big supporter of me, so I was fuelled with determination.”

There was definitely an element of destiny in that tournament. I think four of the games leading up to the final came down to the last frame so there was something about that saying, ‘Your name is on the cup’ going on.”

Speaking about his fondest memories of his career, Fearless Fergal told the Echo: “In 2007 I got to the Northern Ireland final with some great wins along the way beating Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Allen but I lost in the Final to Stephen Maguire.

“But my performances were more or less the most consistent I’ve played in a week.”

Towards the end of his career, O’Brien lost his tour card in 2022, however regained his professional status almost immediately through a successful Q-School event.

But from then on, “In football terms I was just avoiding relegation,” O’Brien said.

Speaking about Ronnie O’Sullivan’s feature film, ‘The Edge of Everything,” O’Brien expressed great praise for his fellow professional and world renound ‘greatest player of all time.’

“He’s a player who has had a more unconventional life than most of us, but I suppose it showed the torment, anguish and nerves that come with being a professional snooker player.

“I totally related to it. I actually took comfort from it, knowing that when it came to those negative thoughts, it wasn’t just me and that the greatest player of all time was having them too.”

Now, O’Brien resides in Lucan where he’s kept a foot in the door of the snooker industry, “I’ve been fortunate in the last year doing commentary for Eurosport which has been brilliant. I’m doing a bit of coaching now, with plenty of students so it’s good.”

Fergal O’Brien during the Irish Snooker Masters Championship match between Stephen Hendry and Fergal O’Brien at the Citywest Hotel in Saggart in 2002. Photo: Damien Eagers/Sportsfile

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