They were supposed to be the warm-up act for the main attraction but Andrew Higginson and Jamie Jones put on a real show for the Galway crowd in the absence of Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Betfair PTC Grand Finals last night.
Higginson won 4-3 with a 95 break in the decider which was all the more creditable considering Jones had stolen the sixth frame by sinking a terrific long black.
O’Sullivan had withdrawn yesterday morning, citing illness. It transpired he had got on the plane, was said to be feeling ill, was told he could not sit by his friend and got off again.
I don’t dispute O’Sullivan’s glandular fever has left him feeling drained. I’m told he was admitted to hospital after the Welsh Open.
But there was widespread anger backstage that he withdrew on the day of his match, giving organisers no time to reschedule and leaving the paying public short-changed.
I myself spoke to two snooker fans who had taken the day off work and come from across Ireland to watch O’Sullivan play. Their specific comments could only be printed after the watershed.
However, World Snooker will no longer be giving players who withdraw because of illness ranking points and prize money, even if they have a doctor’s note. From now on, if you don’t turn up, you get nothing.
This is of course harsh on a player like Ali Carter, whose battles with Crohn’s disease are well documented.
However, there is a mechanism, introduced when Paul Hunter was seriously ill, by which a player can apply to have his world ranking protected if he is unable to compete.
Xiao Guodong meanwhile turned up with a broken bone in his hand, made a century in the first frame against Judd Trump and beat him 4-2.
Perhaps subconsciously Xiao did not expect too much of himself this week because of the injury. He’s now in the quarter-finals.
Jones is on his way home but good luck to him in the future. He tweeted after the match how much he had enjoyed Galway and the people here.
This is the sort of young player the game needs: grateful for his opportunities and humble in victory or defeat.