Hill braces himself for a deciding frame with Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Irish 18-year-old Aaron Hill is savouring every minute of his maiden season on the World Snooker Tour, which has already seen him conquer six-time Crucible king Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Hill secured a 5-4 victory over O’Sullivan during his run to the last 16 of the BetVictor European Masters last September. Since then he has failed to go beyond the last 64 of a ranking competition, but is still relishing the experience.
Sport enthusiast Hill’s introduction to snooker was a fortuitous one and stemmed from a social game with his dad, after his ambitions of a career in football were dealt a blow.
Hill explained: “When I was 12 or 13, I had a trial for Cork City Football Club. Football was everything to me back then, so it was a really big deal. I got through all of the stages, to the very last day of the trial and I was pipped by only a few people. I was devastated, as I felt I had played my best football. I was so upset that my dad wanted to do something to cheer me up. He took me down for my first game of snooker and I fell in love with it instantly. He just wanted to do something to lift my spirits and football hasn’t been on my mind at all since that day.
“I never had interest in a career doing anything other than sport. I used to play football at school, as well as Irish GAA and basketball. I had training for each one day after day through the week. It has always been non-stop sport. Snooker was actually the last sport that I got into, but I’m very glad that I did. I’d never have included snooker in my life if it wasn’t for my dad bringing me to it. I watched a bit on TV and played the odd game of pool, but I couldn’t have known that I’d be doing what I am now.”
Hill is still riding high after his fine showing at the European Masters last September. He’s taken particular confidence from his defeat of World Champion O’Sullivan and hopes he can use that victory as inspiration to resurrect his current form.
“It gave me massive confidence at the time and I still have huge confidence from it. I think I probably always will. I just know in the back of my head that I can produce when I want to do it and if I can do it against him, I can do it against anyone. I try to think about that win as much as I can. I think about that week as a whole really, because I beat another two great players in Matthew Stevens and Andy Hicks as well.
“The buzz is still there and I’m still being messaged and noticed by people in Cork about it. After beating Ronnie I won’t be scared of anybody. I take each game and each ball as it comes. I just have to try and produce as much good snooker as I possibly can.”
This season has seen Irishman Hill join compatriots Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brian on the circuit. He has received particular help from 1997 World Champion Doherty, who has been imparting his considerable wisdom to the teenager.
Doherty was greeted back home to Dublin with a rapturous reception after his Crucible victory in 1997. He paraded the famous trophy through the streets of his home city during an open top bus tour. Hill is fully aware of the support he receives from fans in Ireland and is keen to emulate Doherty by lifting professional silverware.
“The fans in Ireland are amazing. The support I have is mental and I never thought I’d have it. When they say the whole country gets behind their sportspeople, they really mean it. It is a support like no other. If I was to win an event it would be crazy. People I don’t even know message me after matches whether I win or lose. Because it has only been Ken and Fergal before, when they see a young player come through they are excited to see me play and see me grow.
“Ken’s really good company to be around and he is always trying to make sure that I am playing the right shots. If we are both in the practice room, he gives me tips and advice. He has been really good to me and I love being around him. He’s great craic, great fun and a brilliant role model. He’s been very welcoming and made me feel like I am at home on the tour.”
Hill earned his place on the World Snooker Tour by securing a historic double at last year’s European Amateur Championships, winning both the Under-18 and Under-21 titles. It’s an achievement he still takes great pride in and Hill believes that his experiences on the amateur scene were crucial for building the foundations for life as a professional.
“I’m really proud of myself for that week. It is always on my mind and it will never leave my mind. I’ve still got the trophies at home. They are in my living room under my TV and I look at them every day and think about those European Championships.
“I’ve received a lot of experience at the amateur events. I got to go to a lot of countries and meet a lot of people. I’ve taken loads from it and it has stood me in good stead for coming onto the professional tour. I’m getting more used to that every tournament and I hope I can kick on from now to the rest of the season.”