ANTHONY McGILL demonstrated poise under pressure and brought his A-game to the Crucible to send defending champion Mark Selby out of the Betfred World Championship on Friday night.
This was a top quality performance by a genuine talent. He has always been highly regarded by his fellow Scottish players and has now announced himself to the wider world in very impressive fashion.
It’s worth remembering now that he came close to walking away from snooker altogether in his teenage years because of a poisonous political row enveloping the Scottish amateur game. I interviewed him four years ago for Snooker Scene Blog and he told me this: “There was a time when I thought it wasn’t worth carrying on. My dad was involved in it all. He was trying to sort it out, make it better, but it was taking its toll on the family and it wasn’t always a lot of fun in the house.
“Snooker is nothing compared to your family so I considered giving up. Just as I was thinking about doing that I won a PIOS event, so I knew I’d be on the main tour. But it was horrible turning up to those junior tournaments. Nobody seemed to like anyone and you couldn’t enjoy playing in them.
“I’m glad things seem to have been sorted out now and that the juniors today don’t have that going on. It wasn’t a nice few years.”
But it has been a nice few days in Sheffield. Resuming 4-4 with Mark Selby, McGill took the game to him with a superb display in the middle session, winning six of the eight frames to lead 10-6. He increased this to 12-7 and clinched a 13-9 victory with a confident run of 82 in the last frame.
His first snooker memory was as a 7 year-old watching John Higgins win his first world title. Then on a family holiday, he first played cue sports. He said: “There was a pool table in every bar and I went on one. I loved it and my parents had to decide whether to buy me a PlayStation or a small snooker table for Christmas that year. They got me the snooker table, so life could have been very different if they’d picked the PlayStation.
“I loved playing so I started going in the club every weekend and then every day after school.”
And look at him now – in the quarter-finals of the World Championship with a huge new fanbase and the chance to go even further. He is certainly playing well enough to do so.
For Selby, he is the latest victim of the fabled Crucible Curse but has gone out to someone paying some brilliant snooker. The Crucible is where careers are defined and where players find out just how good they really are.
McGill, with this game and this attitude, has proved he can be a challenger for the sport’s greatest prize for several years to come.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.