Editor's Viewpoint: Joe deserves praise for decision to quit
To fans the life of a snooker professional seems idyllic, playing tournaments around the world and potentially earning large sums of money. But there can also be a dark side to the game, as Northern Ireland's Joe Swail reveals in this newspaper today.
Joe, one of the most popular players on the professional circuit with both fans and fellow professionals, is hanging up his cue because he is suffering from depression. The condition became evident earlier this year when he failed to qualify for the world championship, a tournament he twice reached the semi-final in.
In a candid interview, Joe tells how the game can put players on a high or pitch them into a slough of despair, depending on results. Unlike most sports, if a player makes a mistake he is then powerless to influence how his opponent will play and a run of bad results can make the sport somewhat soul-destroying.
Joe, who is 50, faced the additional problem of being based in Northern Ireland, which meant long journeys to tournaments throughout the UK, a treadmill he is no longer willing to take on.
He is fortunate in one respect. Having previously suffered depression, he recognised the symptoms of the latest bout and decided that his health was more important than continuing to compete in a sport which he had largely fallen out of love with.
His experience is by no means unique, as Northern Ireland's other star Mark Allen and five times world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan have also suffered from depression.
Given the nature of the sport - it has a largely male fan base - Joe has performed a signal service to other players by having the courage to go public with his feelings and thereby encouraging others who feel the same to seek help.
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That is what he did when depression first struck him some years ago and he found that talking frankly to someone about how he felt enabled him to overcome the condition.
The high pressure of the professional game means that more players may well be battling similar demons and they will welcome Joe's comments today.
He will not be lost entirely to the game as he intends to play on the seniors tour, which is a much less pressured environment.
He will be a welcome addition to that sphere of the game and no doubt he will continue to be a fine ambassador for Northern Ireland, wherever he travels.