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State of the Nation – Snooker: Time for Yorkshire stars to make the big break

Oliver Lines. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA
Oliver Lines. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA
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World Snooker chief Barry Hearn calls Yorkshire “the global centre for our sport”.

Since the Seventies, snooker has become synonymous with the White Rose county. Think of snooker, and you think of April and the World Championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.

Ding Junhui: No 4 in the world.

Ding Junhui: No 4 in the world.

Then we are blessed to have the UK Championship in Yorkshire, the event having returned to the York Barbican.

In 2017, the English Open was also staged in Barnsley, meaning Yorkshire boasted its own ‘Triple Crown’ of events.

So for 2018, the challenge must be for Yorkshire’s snooker stars to rise to the occasion and prove the county has the talent to match the venues.

There are a dozen Yorkshire players – from Pickering’s Paul Davison in the north to Sheffield’s Adam Duffy in the south – competing on the professional circuit.

Ding is partly responsible for inspiring a whole new generation of Chinese players, and many of them have followed him to Sheffield to play at the city’s snooker academies.

Richard Hercock

The top ‘Yorkshire’ player is Ding Junhui, ranked fourth in the world. Born in China, Ding has lived in Sheffield since moving to the Steel City as a teenager to chase his sporting dreams.

Now 30, he is one of snooker’s greatest talents, and will be a serious contender to break his world title duck in his adopted hometown in April.

Ding is partly responsible for inspiring a whole new generation of Chinese players, and many of them have followed him to Sheffield to play at the city’s snooker academies.

But the brightest hope for a Yorkshire-born player to make the big breakthrough into the world’s elite is Oliver Lines.

The 22-year-old from Leeds is a former European Under-21 champion and has all the talent to take him to the top of the game.

He has been a regular in the last 64 at major events this season, and a couple of last-32 ties, but has been unlucky with some tough draws.

Lines is based at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds, a hotbed for local talent, including Lines’s father Peter – still going strong as a professional at 48 – David Grace and Sanderson Lam.

With emerging talent like Doncaster’s Chris Keogan and York’s Ashley Hugill, there is enough potential in Yorkshire to see a breakthrough in 2018.