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Snooker star Neil Robertson slams 'garbage' facilities at the Northern Ireland Open

By Gareth Hanna

World number ten Neil Robertson has branded the set-up at the Northern Ireland Open snooker tournament as 'garbage'.

Former world champion Neil Robertson made the comments after beating Billy Joe Castle on Wednesday to reach the third round.

The Australian, who lost his last 32 tie 4-3 to Englishman Robert Milkins yesterday afternoon, slammed the facilities for practising at the Waterfront Hall.

He compared preparation for matches at the 128-man tournament to The Shawshank Redemption character Andy Dufresne’s journey through a sewage pipe to escape prison.

"It is garbage," he told Eurosport. "You just have to battle through the mess. Like The Shawshank Redemption, you have to crawl through a lot of the crap to come out the other end a happy person. That is the reality of how it is at these kind of events.

"I couldn't book a practice table before this match. Which might explain why I'm a bit rusty-ish in the match. It is very frustrating because as soon as you finish you book a table before your next match. There was nothing available. I got seven or eight minutes in which is not ideal."

It wasn't just his own worries that Robrterson was concerned with, pointing to the struggles of Tom Ford, who scored only 31 points on route to a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Mark Williams.

"Poor Tom Ford only had 10 minutes before he went on," continued Robertson. "He was standing there for about 20-odd minutes. Ali Carter was there for about 20 minutes watching. It is an unwritten rule that you do a shorter practice routine to let others play.

"I don't mind the best out of sevens. It is impossible to play the best of nines and expect the matches to finish on time. None of the top players like the 128 system at all. Everyone would prefer it how it used to be. It is what it is."

A spokesman from World Snooker responded: “"We have been delighted with the venue this week, crowds have been good, it’s a superb facility and the people at the Waterfront have been a pleasure to work with. We have already agreed the dates to return next year and we look forward to coming back.

"There are challenges associated with staging major tournaments with 128 players. We aim to provide the best possible conditions for players and we always take their feedback on board. Our global tour includes nearly 30 events with prize money at a record £13 million so it is a great time to be a snooker player."

Meanwhile, Ronnie O'Sullivan said he preferred the tournament's 2016 venue at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, claiming that the crowd was 'flat' during his 4-0 second-round win over Duane Jones.

"There's a decent crowd out here. The atmosphere's not brilliant, I must admit last year's venue had a much better atmosphere, I preferred that venue," he said.

"Obviously, this is a bit more plush but as snooker players sometimes you enjoy that gritty type venue that creates a better atmosphere. I'd rather have a better atmosphere but the venue's falling apart. It's very flat out there today so it's difficult to get going."

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