Belfast Telegraph

Swail’s World Championship bid resting on Doherty clash

By Frank Brownlow

Joe Swail is about to play the most important match of his life.

And that’s saying something for a man who has reached two World Championship semi-finals.

The Belfast cueman takes on Dublin’s 1997 world champion Ken Doherty today with a place in the first round of the £1m World Championship at the Crucible at stake.

For the loser, a place in the snooker wilderness awaits.

And that’s not a pleasant prospect for the two 40-year-olds, both battling to remain in the elite top 32.

Swail and Doherty clash at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield over the best of 19 frames in the final qualifying round for the Crucible.

Doherty shattered Jimmy White’s dreams when he hammered the six-times finalist 10-3 on Thursday night, but Swail is confident he has the measure of the rejuvenated Dubliner.

“It’s all to play for,” said Swail.

“Ken and I go back a long way and it’s very close between us in terms of wins and losses.

“He’s beaten me as many times as I have beaten him.

“We’ve had a lot of good matches over the years and it will be all about who plays well on the day. That will decide the outcome.

“It’s my biggest match of the season, in fact probably my biggest match of the last few years.

“I haven’t had a great season and there is so much at stake in this one match — my place in the world’s top 32 and a place at the Crucible. So there’s an awful lot to play for.

“This is a match I have to win.”

And Swail’s preparations have been spot on, practising with Antrim’s world number 11 Mark Allen, who as a top 16 player gets automatic entry into the Crucible first round which starts next month.

Swail said: “I have been putting the work in, practising with Mark, and hopefully I get the rub of the green against Ken.

“I have always had a good record in the longer matches. I tend to be a slow starter so I’m not that keen on best of nine frame matches. But in best of 19, if you don’t start well, there’s no need to panic.

“But no matter what happens, it will be a very tough match. I could have had easier opponents than Ken at this stage of the tournament.

“He’s playing a lot better than he was last season but it’s all about me looking after my own game.

“I think the only year I’ve missed out on getting to the Crucible was 2005.

“So it would be nice to get back there this year because the World Championship is the pinnacle of the sport. I don’t want to end up watching it on television — I want to be playing in it.

“If I make it through I don’t care who I play because the main thing is being in that first round.”

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