Belfast Telegraph

Swail boxing clever for crack at Crucible

By Frank Brownlow

Joe Swail is banking on a good run at the World Championship — and he hasn’t had to look far for inspiration.

No-one was happier than Swail when his pal, boxer Brian Magee, won the European super middleweight title with a recent seventh round stoppage of Mads Larsen in Denmark.

Lisburn fighter Magee became European champion at the age of 34 and — at 40 — Swail is battling to maintain his place among snooker’s elite.

“Hopefully I can do something like Brian has just done. I am just so pleased for him,” said Swail.

“I know how much work he put in ahead of the fight in Denmark and he has reaped the rewards for that.

“Hopefully the sky is the limit for Brian and he can go all the way to the world title.

“What Brian has achieved has been fantastic, absolutely brilliant. He has had a tough time for the last couple of years.

“But now he has showed what he can do. He’s a great lad and a good friend of mine.

“He was maybe in a similar situation to me, perhaps wondering whether he should continue, whether is was worthwhile,” said the Belfast cueman.

And Swail knows a good run all the way to the Crucible in April is what he now needs to boost a career that has saw him reach two World Championship semi-finals as well as last season’s Welsh Open final.

“I’ve had a bit of a bad year and I’ve a fair bit of work to do to stay in the top 32. The World Championship is going to be massive for me.

“There are only six ranking tournaments at the minute so it doesn’t leave much margin for error.

“But I have bounced back before and hopefully I can get a decent run at the World Championship,” said Swail, delighted to see sports promoter Barry Hearn take over the running of the game.

“We definitely need change and I feel Barry Hearn is the best man for the job.

“He needs to be given time now. He has good contacts, good connections, good support. There have been changes already with more sponsors coming on board and players entering the arena to music at the Masters at Wembley Arena. There has also been talk of a new ranking tournament in Germany so things are looking up.

“Barry will bring new ideas to snooker — ways to jazz the game up a bit. And hopefully this will appeal to the public.

“I went for a spell recently where I had one competitive match in four months.

“I’m sorry — but that’s not the sign of a well-run sport. Professional snooker players need to make a living. We all have mortgages and bills to pay.

“You end up asking yourself questions about whether it is worth continuing in the game. I know a lot of players on the fringes of the world’s top 32 are thinking along those lines.

“Things can only get better in snooker. There should be at least nine or 10 ranking tournaments a year.

“And that would allow the better players to stand out — sort out the men from the boys.”

And Swail would like nothing more than to see big-time snooker back in Belfast.

“I would love to see a big tournament in Belfast, be it the Northern Ireland Trophy, the Irish Championship or something new. But in the current climate it’s about getting sponsors on board. And that’s not easy.”

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