JOE Swail’s stunning victory over world No2 Neil Robertson at the International Championship was fitting reward for spinning the snooker wheel one more time.
Now 45, and having seen his form tail away to such an extent he fell off tour two years ago, the Northern Irishman refused to call time on his career and managed to rediscover the joy of playing after a prolonged slump he describes as “mental torture”.
That persuaded two-time Crucible semi-finalist Swail to return to the fray, and in the last month alone he has reminded a few people of his ability and battling qualities.
Ranked 71 in the world coming in to the Chengdu event, Swail hinted at what might be to come in Shanghai in September, putting together a string of wins and only going down 5-4 to Shaun Murphy in a match he could easily have won.
Three years ago young players might have dismissed a demoralised Swail, but within lay a far better player than his ranking at that time suggested.
And back on tour and fortified by shooting the breeze with fellow Renaissance Man Alan McManus and practice sessions with Mark Allen, Swail is savouring everything that goes with being a snooker player this time around after his years in the doldrums.
The unorthodox but highly effective cue action that makes him the Jim Furyk of the snooker world was back on TV and being beamed around the planet as he claimed the notable scalp of former world champion Robertson.
The ‘Outlaw’ of Belfast, who regained his tour place by reaching the final of the Paul Hunter Classic as an amateur, said: “It is one my biggest wins for years.
“You have to remember it was only a couple of years ago I fell off tour and I couldn’t win two frames on the spin, let alone beat a player like Neil.
“It has been a long time coming, but I have got back into it after having no interest in playing. I got my love back for the game partly through coaching others. I always had ability but my head wasn’t right for a while there.
“But I decided to give professional snooker one last go and the wins I have had have seen the confidence come right back.
“I couldn’t go out and work in computers or something, I have no qualification to do that. The only thing I am qualified to do is be in snooker, and play snooker.
“Being off the tour forced me to reflect on what I wanted to do, and I knew I wanted to be involved again. I will never forget how I was a couple of years ago, it is very important to keep that perspective because it drives you on and helps you enjoy it.
“It reminds you how low you were, but people were there for me. It was mental torture, but there is life in the old dog yet. And I don’t care who I play here or anywhere this season.
“Some players are beaten before they start against the top boys but that is not the case with me now because I have the experience, have always had the ability and after losing my belief for a bit that is back.
“The money is handy and pays a few bills because it has been quiet the past few years, it is great to be back on my feet again.”
Photograph courtesy of World Snooker