Murphy – Guild Hall Is So Special
Snooker ace Shaun Murphy will be defending his Ladbrokes World Grand Prix title when the tournament comes the Preston Guild Hall next month – and he’s thrilled to be coming back to one of the sport’s greatest venues.
The event runs from February 6 to 12 and will feature 32 players from a unique ranking list which has run throughout this season. Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Selby, Judd Trump and John Higgins are among the star names who will be battling for the £100,000 top prize.
Last season the tournament was staged in Llandudno and Murphy beat Stuart Bingham 10-9 in a dramatic final. World number five Murphy is delighted that it has been moved to the Guild Hall, which staged the UK Championship from 1978 to 1997.
“If you think of snooker’s most iconic venues, you think of the Crucible first and then probably the Preston Guild Hall along with Wembley Conference Centre and the Reading Hexagon,” said 2005 World Champion Murphy. “When I was growing up, they were the venues where the big events took place and the ones I dreamed of playing at.
“I’ve watched plenty of footage on YouTube of the Steve Davis v Alex Higgins UK Championship finals at the Guild Hall in the early 1980s. As a junior I went there to watch and I’d think about those great matches. There’s such a strong sense of snooker history there, so many great moments happened in that arena, and that’s what still makes it so special.
“It’s similar to the feeling you get when you walk into the Crucible. When you watch on TV you don’t realise how big the Guild Hall is. But it feels very intimate at the same time. There’s that sense of anticipation and suspense for the crowd that you don’t get in any other sport.
“It’s a great honour to play at the Guild Hall now in a big tournament and it’s exciting for all the players, and I can’t wait for the World Grand Prix to come around. It’s great that Preston is back on our rotation.”
Murphy’s final clash with Bingham last year was an epic contest which went down to the last few balls in the deciding frame. “It was a much more exciting final than I wanted it to be!” he said. “I played really well throughout the tournament, I was in a good routine, a good frame of mind and I was very happy with my game. In fact it was only in the final that I struggled. I was a bit of a rabbit in the headlights because I was so determined to win and perhaps that brought a few more nerves.
“I was 4-2 up early on, but then Stuart came back at me and it was very close throughout the last session. In the end it went down to the last frame and either of us could have won, so I was thrilled to get over the line.
“I potted a couple of great long reds at important moments in the last frame which proved vital. Towards the end, Stuart had put me in a position where I had no shot other than to go for a difficult long red to a baulk corner pocket. I don’t necessarily like to go for those daredevil shots, I’d rather play stress free snooker, but I had no choice that time. Luckily it went in and I won the frame. To win the title is what I go to every tournament for. There’s no reason why this year can’t be a repeat.”
The qualifying ranking list has been running throughout the season, with every pound earned counting towards a player’s total. The top 32 after the German Masters in early February will go through to Preston, and then the top 16 will earn a spot at the Players Championship in Llandudno in March.
“I really like the way the tour works now,” Murphy added. “It’s almost like the Fed Ex Cup in golf, with the fields getting smaller and the prize money getting bigger for consecutive events. It’s a great opportunity for players to compete for life-changing sums of money every week.”
Murphy has never successfully defended a ranking title in his 19 year career and he’ll be hoping to change that in Preston. “As defending champion you are there to be shot at,” he said. “You’re on all the posters and programmes and everyone wants to beat you. From my point of view I just need to go and play snooker and do the same things that I do every week, prepare well and try my best. Hopefully that will take me a long way.”
Fans can book tickets, which start at £13, for every session including the showpiece final on Sunday February 12, but seats MUST BE BOOKED FAST as certain sessions will sell out soon. For full details call 01772 80 4444 or CLICK HERE