Aaron Hill completed an unprecedented continental double after defeating Hayden Staniland 5-2 in the final to win the 2020 EBSA European Under-21 Snooker Championship in Portugal.
Just days after retaining the European under-18 title at the Salgados Palace Hotel in Albufeira, the latest part of Hill’s trophy duo earns him a coveted professional World Snooker Tour card for the first time. He becomes the first player to claim both EBSA junior category championships in the same year.
The Irishman continued his fine form from earlier in the week, emerging through an entry of over 90 players who were representing 27 different countries. He began his campaign by relinquishing just one frame in the round robin phase, topping his group and qualifying for the knockouts.
Hill would however endure a scare in the last 32 when opponent Patrik Tiihonen of Finland made a 101 break to move 2-0 up before he strung together four consecutive frames to progress 4-2. The Cork cueist highlighted a run of 97 in eliminating fellow countryman and last year’s runner-up Ross Bulman 4-1 in the last 16 and then dispatched England’s number one ranked under-21 player and national champion Mark Lloyd 4-0 in the quarter-finals. In the last four he ended the challenge of Belgium’s Ben Mertens 4-1.
Waiting for Hill in the final was Staniland, who was the first Englishman to reach the title match since 2016. Staniland showed nerve to survive a trio of deciding frame finishes in the knockout phase, including victory against Frenchman Brian Ochoiski in the semi-finals. In this the 24th edition of the competition, had Ochoiski advanced, it would have been the first time that a player from the United Kingdom had not featured in the final.
Staniland was largely confined to his seat for the opening mini-session of the best-of-nine frames final, though, as Hill helped himself to breaks of 59, 69 and 76 to boss his way to a 4-0 lead. The whitewash was averted by Staniland after the break and with an effort of 53 in frame six, he briefly threatened an unlikely comeback. However, despite a couple of wobbles in frame seven, Hill composed himself to get across the line and secure a 5-2 success.
The 18-year-old joins a roll of honour that lists former champions such as world ranking event winners Mark Allen, Michael White and Luca Brecel. He is the third player from the Republic of Ireland to conquer Europe’s premier youth accolade, following in the footsteps of Thomas Dowling in 1997 – the inaugural edition – and Josh Boileau in 2016. Hill is now guaranteed a place on the sport’s top tier for the 2020/21 and 2021/22 seasons.
Elsewhere in the tournament, England’s Sean Maddocks – finalist in the under-18 championship and the WSF Junior Open – bowed out to Ochoiski in the last 32. WSF Open runner-up Iulian Boiko of the Ukraine qualified as one of the top seeds, but his hopes were dashed by Harry Andrew Gosney (England) in the last 16. Winner of this season’s Challenge Tour Event Seven Dean Young (Scotland) was defeated by Julian Leclercq (Belgium) in the last 32.
Action continues in Portugal with the European 6-Red and Open Championships – the winner of the latter event will also collect a professional tour card.
2020 EBSA European Under-21 Snooker Championship
Results from the quarter-finals onwards
Harry Andrew Gosney (England) 3-4 Hayden Staniland (England)
Dylan Emery (Wales) 3-4 Brian Ochoiski (France)
Mark Lloyd (England) 0-4 Aaron Hill (Republic of Ireland)
Ben Mertens (Belgium) 4-1 Daniel Holoyda (Poland)
Staniland 4-3 Ochoiski
Hill 4-1 Mertens
Staniland 2-5 Hill
The Republic of Ireland’s Aaron Hill defended the EBSA European Under-18 Snooker Championship after he defeated Sean Maddocks 4-1 in the final in Portugal last night.
Featuring 70 players from 24 different countries, Hill was the last cueist remaining following four days of action at the Salgados Palace Hotel in Albufeira. The teenager follows in the footsteps of current main tour professional Jackson Page who retained this title in 2018.
Hill had no issues in qualifying for the knockout stages as he topped his group with four wins from four and crafted the tournament’s highest break of 131. He then dispatched Luis Vetter (Switzerland) 3-1 before dropping no subsequent frames against Liam Graham (Scotland) 3-0, Joe Fenton (England) 4-0 and Ben Mertens (Belgium) 4-0 to make the final.
For Maddocks it was his second major international final appearance in just over two months after reaching the title match at the World Snooker Federation Junior Open in Malta. The Englishman also went through undefeated, eliminating recent Polish national champion Antoni Kowalski 4-3 from 3-1 down in the quarter-finals and fellow countryman Connor Benzey 4-1 in the last four.
Looking to avenge his whitewash loss to Maddocks during the semi-finals of the previously mentioned WSF Junior Open, Hill made an ideal start to the final as he compiled breaks of 73 and 55 to take the opening frame. The Irishman doubled his lead and it was looking like he was going to inflict a clean sweep of his opponent when a run of 92 allowed him to move 3-0 up. Maddocks got on the board with frame four but a 50 break helped promising prospect Hill secure a 4-1 victory and once again lift the trophy.
Elsewhere in the tournament, 13-year-old Bulcsú Révész (Hungary) and 15-year-old Robbie McGuigan (Northern Ireland) finished the groups phase as the top seeds, although Révész lost to Benzey in the quarter-finals and McGuigan bowed out to Joe Fenton (England) in the last 32. The Ukraine’s Iulian Boiko – runner-up at the recent World Snooker Federation Open – lost to Benzey in the last 16 and Dean Young – a winner on this season’s Challenge Tour – also went out at the same stage to Kowalski.
Attention in Portugal now turns to the lucrative European Under-21 Championship across the coming days where the winner will be offered a two-year professional World Snooker Tour card.
Results – from the quarter-finals onwards:
Bulcsú Révész (Hungary) 1-4 Connor Benzey (England)
Antoni Kowalski (Poland) 3-4 Sean Maddocks (England)
Ben Mertens (Belgium) 4-0 Madalin Gal (Romania)
Aaron Hill (Republic of Ireland) 4-0 Joe Fenton (England)
Benzey 1-4 Maddocks
Mertens 0-4 Hill
Maddocks 1-4 Hill
The semi-finalists for the 2020 World Snooker Federation Junior Open are now known following the completion of the opening knockout rounds in Malta over the past few days.
England’s Sean Maddocks, the Republic of Ireland’s Aaron Hill and Chinese pairing of Yi Ze Wu and Yang Gao remain in the event, where the winner will not only receive the prestigious title, but also a lucrative two-year professional tour card for the 2020/21 and 2021/22 seasons.
Maddocks, officially recognised as the youngest player to have made a 147 break in competitive play, will face Hill, the current European Under-18 Champion.
Both players qualified for the knockout stages after qualifying top of their groups with 100% records. Maddocks subsequently eliminated Bradley Tyson (Wales), Antoni Kowalski (Poland) and Jovan Todorovic (Serbia), while Hill ended the hopes of Lewis Ullah (England), Attila Horváth (Hungary) and Oliver Sykes (England).
Compatriots Yi and Yang will contest the other last four affair, both hoping to make the step up to the top tier of the sport and join the growing contingent of young Chinese players on the full-time circuit.
Like Maddocks and Hill, Yi is undefeated. After heading Group D, the 16-year-old saw off recent Beverly World Cup quarter-finalist Ben Mertens (Belgium) 3-1 in the last 32. Then, in arguably the match of the tournament so far, he ousted another Belgian in Julian Leclercq 3-2 during the last 16, where Yi compiled breaks of 106, 85 and 100 to counteract efforts of 83 and 55 from Leclercq. Yi then denied 2019 Snooker Shootout star Ryan Davies (England) 4-2 in the quarter-finals. Yang finished second in his group before defeating Mickey Joyce (England), recent Challenge Tour event winner Dean Young (Scotland) and Kreishh Gurbaxani (India).
Both semi-finals will be live streamed on the World Snooker Federation Facebook page with Maddocks v Hill scheduled for 14.00GMT and Yi v Yang set for 18.00GMT. The 2020 WSF Junior Open best-of-9-frames final will take place on Thursday at 11.00GMT; this too will be live streamed
For full results throughout the competition, please visit snookerscores.net here.
Aaron Hill became the second Irish player within the last three years to have claimed a European Billiards and Snooker Association youth title following his success in the 2019 European Under-18 Snooker Championship earlier this week.
Held at the U Magic Palace Hotel in the Israeli coastal city and resort of Eilat, this was the first of three events that make up this year’s EBSA Championships. Running until 2 March, the subsequent Under-21 and Main categories will complete a busy programme. It is the first time that Israel has held the championships.
In what was the fourth annual staging of the Under-18 discipline, representatives from a healthy 24 different nations took part – further evidence of snooker’s growing appeal on the continent.
Cork cueist Hill qualified from his round robin group, finishing second behind Hungary’s promising 12-year-old prospect Bulcsú Révész.
During the knockout portion of the competition Hill made breaks of 54 and 57 to dispatch Bradley Tyson (Wales), 3-0, and 60 and 81 in seeing off Iulian Boiko (Ukraine), 3-1, to reach the quarter-finals.
Hill then capped off a 4-1 win over Belgium’s Julien Leclercq with a run of 70 before eliminating number 1 seed Florian Nüßle, 4-2, in the semis with a further brace of half-centuries. Current Austrian National champion Nüßle was the runner-up to Jackson Page in this tournament twelve months ago in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Awaiting Hill in the final was the undefeated Dylan Emery of Wales, who was looking to follow in the footsteps of fellow countrymen Tyler Rees (2016) and Page (2017, 2018) as the only other winners of this championship.
Emery eased through his group without dropping a frame, also constructing the highest break of the event, a 141. That was one of three centuries he would make in total.
He then dispatched Dean Young (Scotland) 3-2 and Nicolas Mortreux (France) 4-2 in the last 16 and 8 respectively. In the last 4 he stopped the possibility of an all-Irish final when he denied Ross Bulman, a stablemate of Hill’s, 4-0.
A predictably close and tense final ensued; Emery took a 2-1 lead with the aid of 54 and 59 breaks, but Hill responded to move in front for the first time and just one away from the trophy as he chalked up runs of 59 and 50.
The Welshman, a year older than his opponent, levelled it up at 3-3, however, Irish eyes were smiling when Hill kept his nerve in the decider as he coolly amassed a decisive 84 break.
The action continues with the Under-21 Championship which concludes this Friday and will see the winner claim a two-year ticket to the World Snooker Tour from the start of next season.