York wins battle to retain UK finals to delight of top players

PlayerS have unanimously welcomed the decision to keep the UK Championship in York.

Shaun Murphy is a big fan of York.
Shaun Murphy is a big fan of York.

The event at the city’s Barbican is snooker’s second highest-profile tournament of the season – behind the World Championship in Sheffield – and returned to York in 2011 after a number of years of being staged in Telford.

Last year, World Snooker considered moving the tournament away from the Barbican to a larger venue, but ultimately decided to remain in Yorkshire.

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The decision has “delighted” the players, according to former world champion Shaun Murphy – who himself has strong links with the county having lived in Rotherham when he won at the Crucible in 2005.

“The players were unanimously delighted because we love York,” Murphy said. “The crowds are always very good there, the people are very enthusiastic about snooker, plus it’s a beautiful city.”

Murphy will be one of the favourites in York, when the tournament cues off next month.

The £700,000 tournament at the York Barbican starts on November 25, with 128 of the world’s leading players to compete for the trophy in the BBC-televised event.

Having won the recent Bulgarian Open – conceding just seven frames in winning seven matches as he romped to his third title of 2014 – and reaching the final of last week’s General Cup in Hong Kong, Murphy is tipping himself to be a contender.

“I get a sense that I might be in the mix in York, particularly if I can keep playing the way I am now,” said the 32-year-old.

“There’s a lot of snooker to be played between now and then, but it’s nice to know that I’m in form at the moment. As soon as the season gets going, the players have got one eye on the UK Championship because it’s our biggest event other than the World Championship. I just can’t wait to be there and get stuck in.”

Murphy won the UK title in 2008, beating Marco Fu 10-9 in the final, and also reached the final two years ago before losing 10-6 to Mark Selby.

“My abiding memory of 2008 is fluking the pink in the last frame which got me over the line,” he said.

“I went through my whole pre-shot routine, lined it up and then missed the pot by miles.

“Luckily it went around the table and into another pocket. Lifting the trophy was a very proud moment for me.

“In 2012 I played some of the best snooker of my life to come from 8-4 down against Ali Carter in the semi-finals to win 9-8. I’ll never forget that match, but it was disappointing not to play the same way in the final.”

Last year a new format at York was introduced, where all 128 players start in the same round, meaning there can be some early giant-killings.

Some of the sport’s bigger names have been critical of the format, but not Murphy.

“It throws up a few surprises early on which goes to show the strength in depth in snooker,” he said. “It is the fairest format and that can only be good for the sport.”