Stephen Maguire’s 6-4 defeat of Judd Trump in the Dafabet Masters on Monday underlines his reputation as one of the sport’s real dangermen.
We were sat backstage last week at the Championship League when one of the other players asked Judd who he had drawn at Alexandra Palace. When he supplied the answer, the other player winced as if to say, ‘what a horrid draw.’
And so it proved. Trump was flying at 2-0 but it was Maguire’s capture of the third frame after needing a snooker on the blue which began to turn things in his favour.
Maguire is not usually mentioned in the first two or three names as potential winners of a title but, if he does win at the end of the week, it isn’t a huge shock.
In 2004, the Scot defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan in the British Open and UK Championship, winning the latter event at a canter. O’Sullivan was so impressed with both performances that he predicted the Scot would “dominate the game for the next ten years.”
This was always going to be difficult with the quality of players around in this time. Maguire has won his fair share of titles – five rankers plus three PTC/European Tour events. He won in Lisbon last month having captured the world six reds crown last September.
Yet he has also come close several times in big events – two World Championship semi-finals, three Masters semis – and gone home disappointed.
It was Stephen Hendry’s emergence as a world class talent which transformed Scottish snooker and inspired a generation. Maguire was nine when Hendry won his first world title. By the time he was a teenager he was practising with the era’s dominant force on a regular basis at Spencer’s in Stirling.
And so the long trudge to the top began – all those qualifying matches in soulless cubicles as he worked his way up the rankings.
It was in Maguire’s fifth season in which he broke through as a ranking event winner at the European Open in Malta. His UK Championship success later that year was won at a canter but life as a top player brings new pressures of expectation.
He came into the Masters 12th in the world rankings, not quite nailed on yet for an automatic Crucible place but it would be surprising if he missed out.
Maguire can be something of a firebrand on the table but seems happy-go-lucky away from it. Even so, today’s victory over in-form Trump today will have been very satisfying and sets him up for a tilt at his old rival Shaun Murphy in the quarter-finals.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.