James Cahill will become the first ever amateur to grace the Crucible, after he defeated Michael Judge 10-6 at Betfred World Championship qualifying in Sheffield.
With both players competing as amateurs this week, the historic Crucible first was guaranteed regardless of the result.
Cahill spent four years as a professional on the tour, before dropping off in 2017. However, performances as a Q School top up this term have seen him earn a tour card for next season, when he will regain his professional status.
The Blackpool potter has already highlighted his big match mettle with two giant killing UK Championship wins. In 2014 he came through a final frame decider to beat Ding Junhui 6-5 during a run to the last 16. Earlier this season he downed the then world number one Mark Selby 6-3 in the opening round.
Judge’s remarkable run comes to an end, but he has the consolation of £15,000 of prize money for reaching this stage. The Irishman, who spent 19 seasons as a professional before dropping off the tour in 2011, only found out last Monday he would be playing in this event after Zhang Jiankang pulled out. He went on to record two post-midnight 10-9 victories against Peter Lines and Xiao Guodong.
Cahill looked composed this afternoon in the Judgement Day pressure cooker. From 8-6 up, he showed no signs of finishing line nerves, firing in breaks of 64 and 60 to push his way over the line.
“This is the best buzz I’ve ever had playing snooker. I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet, but I know what I’ve achieved and it is something special,” said 23-year-old Cahill. “I’ve shown a lot of character and bottle this week. There was a lot more at stake than just qualifying for the Crucible. I’ve had to try and get my tour card for the next few years, which I’ve done. The fact that it is my first time qualifying as well added extra pressure, I made two really good 60 breaks to get over the line.
“To be the first amateur at the Crucible is not something I’m proud of as I see myself as a professional. It is a record though and I am happy to break records if I can. It is nice just to get through this year and now hopefully it will now get easier for the rest of my career and eventually I can get into the world’s top 16 and won’t even have to qualify.”
Anthony McGill ensured his place in tomorrow’s draw by summoning a superb fightback to come from 7-2 down and defeat Robert Milkins 10-8.
He fired his way back into contention, making breaks of 97 and 118, as he claimed seven frames on the bounce to establish an unlikely 9-7 advantage. Milkins pulled within one, but a contribution of 52 helped McGill to seal a remarkable victory.
The Scot will now compete at the Crucible for a fifth consecutive season. Although he has struggled to find his best form this term, having not gone beyond the last 16 of any event. He will be hoping today’s fightback acts as a catalyst for a return to top form on snooker’s biggest stage.
McGill said: “Sometimes I maybe just don’t care enough. I’m quite philosophical and sometimes I need a bit more fire in my belly. I had it today and I wish I could get that feeling for every match. I need to pick up my standard, but I’m in the event so I can turn it around.
“Immediately after yesterday’s session I thought I was beat. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that he still had three frames to win. I knew I could make it hard for him. I actually quite fancied it when I woke up today.
“This is the biggest match of the season for everyone outside of the world’s top 16. The pressure of getting to the Crucible is more than most matches you will play. When you come back at someone they feel it regardless of what event you are playing in, but I knew that would be doubled with what was at stake for Rob.”
The tour’s fastest player Thepchaiya Un-Nooh was the first player over the line today, beating tour rookie Joe O’Connor 10-6.
Thailand’s Un-Nooh made his Crucible debut 12 months ago, facing eventual finalist John Higgins. Un-Nooh put on a strong showing before succumbing to a 10-7 loss. Following today’s victory he stated he wouldn’t mind being pitted against the illustrious Scot again in tomorrow’s draw.
“I would like to get a rematch with John Higgins and play him again,” said Un-Nooh. “In the first session against Higgins I didn’t play well, but came back in the evening. He was 6-3 up and that was too far for me to get close to him. Hopefully this year I will draw him again.”
Michael Georgiou defeated China’s Yan Bingtao 10-8 to secure his maiden Crucible appearance and become the first ever Cypriot to compete in the final stages of the World Championship.
Prior to this week Georgiou had endured a torrid World Championship record, having suffered three first round exits and one second round defeat. However, he turned that around this week with today’s victory and earlier wins over Lee Walker and 2002 World Champion Peter Ebdon.
“I don’t know what to say really. It hasn’t sunk in yet. Yan is a fantastic player and he made me work for it. Somehow I have stumbled over the line and the Crucible awaits,” said 2018 Shoot Out winner Georgiou. “It is every kid’s dream to go to the Crucible. There is so much history attached to it and now I am going to get to play there.
“It is a long term goal to inspire more people to play snooker in Cyprus. To be the first Cypriot at the Crucible is great, there is a first for everything. I am just hoping I can do them proud and hopefully this will gain interest for the sport and grow it slowly.”
46-year-old Mark Davis will be the oldest player in the draw tomorrow after he secured his place with a 10-7 win over Chinese prospect Lyu Haotian. Davis is now the most successful player in the history of World Championship qualifying, having negotiated the process ten times.
Zhou Yuelong defeated Eden Sharav 10-6 to secure his second Crucible appearance and end his opponent’s hopes of becoming the first Israeli to reach the final stages. While 2016 German Masters winner Martin Gould came through 10-8 against Welshman Daniel Wells.
Gary Wilson secured his place in the draw with a hard fought 10-6 defeat of Liang Wenbo. It will be Wilson’s second time at the Crucible. His last appearance saw him succumb to a narrow 10-7 loss against Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2015.