THRILLER! | Shaun Murphy vs Robert Milkins HIGHLIGHTS | 2023 Duelbits Tour Championship

O’Connor Dodges Belgian Bullet

Joe O’Connor won the last two frames to beat Luca Brecel 6-5 at the Duelbits Players Championship and reach the third ranking event semi-final of his career.

The 27-year-old from Leicester is enjoying the best season of his career so far. He went on a superb run to the Scottish Open final back in December, which included a semi-final win over Neil Robertson, but was beaten by Gary Wilson in the title match.

O’Connor is a former junior World and European Champion at eight ball pool and only turned to snooker at the age of 17. However, practising with the likes of Mark Selby and Tom Ford gave him a swift education in the sport.

Victory this afternoon will see him reach at least 31st in the world at the end of the week, his highest ever ranking. He now faces Ali Carter in the semi-finals tomorrow evening at 7pm.

O’Connor still has a tough task ahead of him to make the series finale at the Duelbits Tour Championship. Only the best eight players of the season will make the Hull event and he must capture the title this week to edge into a qualifying position. Brecel ominously finds himself in eighth spot on the live standings.

There was never more than a solitary frame between the pair in this fiercely contested clash, but it was Brecel who took the opener with a break of 68. The next two frames were traded, before O’Connor battled to take a 33-minute fourth and head into the mid-session all square at 2-2.

Brecel won the first after the break with a run of 88, but O’Connor immediately responded with 85 in the sixth to make it 3-3.

O’Connor led for the first time after a hard fought seventh frame. However, contributions of 56 and 88 saw Brecel take two on the bounce and move one from victory at 5-4.

Former English Amateur champion O’Connor showed great resolve to force a decider with a sublime run of 125. He then had the first chance in the final frame, but broke down on 57. Brecel had two further opportunities, but a miscue and a spurned red to the top right corner cost him. O’Connor got himself over the line to book his last four showdown with Carter.

“It was a good battle with Luca. I think the people in the audience would have enjoyed a good match,” said O’Connor. “You have to keep it tight against him. Every time he is eyeing up a long one, I know it has a good chance of going in and I’ll probably lose the frame from it. I just had to keep it tight and not give him chances to get in.

“The run at the Scottish Open has re-assured my confidence. It is just believing in myself a little bit more. When I am in and around the balls, making breaks, I can second guess myself. That has gone out of the window a bit and I can free flow a bit more.

“It would be amazing to win the event. As a snooker player you dream of lifting trophies, I won’t be thinking about it too much until I get to the final at least.”