Official Fergal O'Brien Website

My First Visit To The Crucible

In order to qualify for the Crucible for the first time in 1994
I had to win five best of nineteen matches in Blackpool in January of that year.
Even before I traveled to Blackpool I felt very good having spent some time in Ilford, Essex
and even had a practice session against Steve Davis in the famous Matchroom Club in Romford.
Though he beat me 9 - 3 that day I learned a lot and went to the qualifiers with a great attitude.

I beat Anthony Bolsover 10 - 2,
Peter Daubney 10 - 4,
Tony Chappell 10 - 5,
Mark O'Sullivan 10 - 9 (on the pink)
and in the final qualifier Mick Price 10 - 4.
Having played all those matches I was really sharp and against Mick,
who was seeded and therefore coming in cold,
I felt very confident, which helped, given the significance of the match.

To play at the Crucible is the dream of any snooker player and I was delighted that day in January
but a good day got even better when it was announced that I had received a wild card for the
Benson & Hedges Irish Masters in March.
Now I was not only going to play at the home of snooker
but I was also going to play in front of my home crowd.

In the Irish Masters I beat Willie Thorne 5 - 1 and then,
in probably the best performance of my career,
I beat the then World No. 1 and World Champion, Stephen Hendry, 5 - 2 .
I had back-to-back centuries including a 141
(then the highest break in the Tournaments history)
to lead 4 - 0 and despite Stephen equaling my 141 break,
I had a 60 clearance to the blue to win 5 - 2.
I can still remember, vividly, the great feeling I had that day.
To put in such a great performance in front of my family and friends was pure magic.
In the semi-final I lost 6 - 4 to Alan McManus.
I didn't play badly but Alan's experience and tactical play made the difference in the end.

I went to the Crucible in high spirits after reaching the semi-finals of the Irish Masters
and it was Alan McManus I had to face on my debut in the Crucible.
I arrived two days before my match to try and soak up the atmosphere.
The day I arrived I went into the arena to watch another first round match .
I was shocked to realize how small and compact the arena was.
I thought I was in the wrong room and that the real Crucible was next door.
The Television cameras have a way of making the arena look much bigger than it is in reality.

The day before my match I had a few frames with Alex Higgins
who was making a return to the Crucible after a four year abs
Despite feeling a bit nervous I was also excited before my match.
I had heard so much about the special atmosphere I couldn't wait to sample it.
Getting introduced to the packed crowd alone was dream.

I made a dream start to the match making a 101 clearance in the very first frame.
That remains today as the only time a player has made a century
in his first frame on his first visit to the Crucible.
A statistic I'm very proud of.
I also made a 90 break to level at 2 - 2
and I felt very content in my dressing room at the interval.

At 4 - 3 down I had breaks of 50 in the next two frames but lost them both.
The second was particularly hard to take as I missed an easy pink
to reduce the deficit to 5 - 4 but he got pink and black to lead 6 - 3 overnight.
A good day ended with a horrible feeling and I found it hard that night to forget about that missed pink.
My worst fears were confirmed the next morning when Alan made a break of 143 to lead 7 - 3
and he won the next two frames quickly and looked all set to win 10 - 3
until he missed an easy red whilst 50 ahead in the 13th frame.
I managed to clear with a 50 plus break to, at least, stop the rot.

My confidence restored after the interval I started to play very well,
another century, a 70 and a 60 reduced the deficit to 9 - 7.
When I made a 50 at the start of the next frame
it looked like I'd be only one frame behind
but a combination of excellent safety and good potting,
including doubling the pink by Alan,
saw him clear up to win on the black 10 - 7.

Whilst I was disappointed to lose on my first appearance at the Crucible I had acquitted myself very well.
Nine breaks over 50 were testament to a very good performance.
They say you never forget your first time
and over eleven years later I can still remember clearly the excitement,
apprehension and atmosphere of playing at the Crucible for the first time



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