Among the first set of matches in the Welsh Open today is an all Northern Irish battle between Mark Allen and Joe Swail.

Allen is the rising star and certainly capable of winning the title.

But what of Swail?

Joe’s had a career that has swung between great inspirational moments and a fair degree of disappointment.

His exit at last season’s World Championship most definitely fell into the latter category. He fought back from 12-8 against Liang Wenbo but was beaten 13-12.

Two points about this defeat:

1) It was the first time he had ever lost a decider in the World Championship, having won something like eight or nine
2) Had he won he would have become the first player ever to drop out of the top 16 and top 32 and return to the top 16 on more than one occasion. Joe did this first a few years ago. Rex Williams also did it in the 1980s.

Swail has appeared in nine ranking event semi-finals but never a final.

In 2000, he was 9-6 down to Stephen Maguire in the final qualifying round of the World Championship but came back to win 10-9.

This was the start of a fairytale run through to the semi-finals at the Crucible, which included a 13-12 second round defeat of John Parrott from 12-8 down.

It was an emotional run, too. Swail’s mother, Josephine, had died of cancer and the public warmed to this sincere, dogged competitor attempting to land the greatest prize in snooker.

They saw him as human, not some inscrutable face on the TV. Joe is partially deaf and, though this does not necessarily affect his game, it added to the picture of a player battling the odds.

Matthew Stevens beat him in the semi-finals but a year later Swail was back in the last four again. This time, he had come from 10-6 down to beat Mark Williams 13-11 in the second round.
All this got him up to his highest ever ranking, tenth, but then he endured a nightmare run of results and was soon down to 40th.

Things turned back the other way. He won the Irish Championship, put some solid results together and last season, he came from 9-7 down to Judd Trump to reach the Crucible again and come close to a top 16 return.

If you watch him play you’d wonder how this was possible. His cue action is unorthodox to say the least.

But it works for him and that’s all that matters.

He has enjoyed a far better career than most, having turned professional after winning the 1990 English amateur title.

Joe also has one of snooker’s best, if most tenuous, nicknames: ‘The Outlaw.’ This was thanks to Alan Hughes, snooker’s best ever MC, who was a fan of the film ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales.’

His last major semi-final was at the 2001 LG Cup. Time isn’t on his side but don’t rule out another great run in a tournament soon.

He’s that sort of player and has had that sort of career.


Anonymous said...

its a toughie to choose

joe has been a fav for years.

Mark Allen is a player who is capable of being in the worlds top 3 within the next 5 years...

toss a coin.... Allen to win by 2 frames

Anonymous said...

He's a fierce competitor with bags of will to win. His match against Wenbo at the Crucible was an all time classic.

And The Outlaw Josey Wales is a great film and the cleverest nickname in snooker!

Anonymous said...

Is there any truth in the rumour that Joe had his cue stolen on Friday?

mathmo said...

Joe is a great player to watch. His wristy action, and immense cue power and bags of courage always make him one to watch for me.

I still remember his comeback against Wenbo last year as if it was yesterday. And the controversy over whether the ball was put back in the correct place on not...

Ruthie said...

Apologies for posting off topic, but just to let people know the sheffieldtheatres.co.uk website has posted an apology for the weekend problems and a new list of matches available. There are quite a few more than were listed on the box office website that Matt@PSB helped us out with over the weekend.

Anonymous said...

It's encouraging to see so many sessions already sold out in Sheffield. Does anyone know how ticket sales for the Welsh Open have been going? Are there stats available for knowing what the worst attended ranking event ever was? Dubai this year has got to be among the contenders for this dubious prize...

Matt@PSB said...

Ooh that is good news Ruthie, thanks a lot for that heads up.

Anonymous said...

dubai this year?

you on a different planet?

MMMBop said...

Has everyone seen globalsnookercentre.co.uk now? Design has changed and it looks so much more professional now, bout time it got a new look.

Anonymous said...

well done Joe. His matches in 2000 and 2001 made him a great favourite with the crucible crowd- time to win a title this week maybe?

Anonymous said...

"It was the first time he had ever lost a decider in the World Championship, having won something like eight or nine"

He lost 10-9 in the qualifiers a couple of times (I assume you're including the qualifiers, since he hadn't won that many deciders at the Crucible).

Anonymous said...

Re: The last post

I just check some old records, Swail lost 9-10 in the qualifiers to Nigel Gilbert in 1999, but won 10-9 in at least 3 times in the final qualifying (against Maguire in 2000, Harold in 2007 and Trump last year)

Dave H said...


I will be publishing a full apology in the next magazine.

If there's room!