Aaron Hill completed an unprecedented continental double after defeating Hayden Staniland 5-2 in the final to win the 2020 EBSA European Under-21 Snooker Championship in Portugal.
Just days after retaining the European under-18 title at the Salgados Palace Hotel in Albufeira, the latest part of Hill’s trophy duo earns him a coveted professional World Snooker Tour card for the first time. He becomes the first player to claim both EBSA junior category championships in the same year.
The Irishman continued his fine form from earlier in the week, emerging through an entry of over 90 players who were representing 27 different countries. He began his campaign by relinquishing just one frame in the round robin phase, topping his group and qualifying for the knockouts.
Hill would however endure a scare in the last 32 when opponent Patrik Tiihonen of Finland made a 101 break to move 2-0 up before he strung together four consecutive frames to progress 4-2. The Cork cueist highlighted a run of 97 in eliminating fellow countryman and last year’s runner-up Ross Bulman 4-1 in the last 16 and then dispatched England’s number one ranked under-21 player and national champion Mark Lloyd 4-0 in the quarter-finals. In the last four he ended the challenge of Belgium’s Ben Mertens 4-1.
Waiting for Hill in the final was Staniland, who was the first Englishman to reach the title match since 2016. Staniland showed nerve to survive a trio of deciding frame finishes in the knockout phase, including victory against Frenchman Brian Ochoiski in the semi-finals. In this the 24th edition of the competition, had Ochoiski advanced, it would have been the first time that a player from the United Kingdom had not featured in the final.
Staniland was largely confined to his seat for the opening mini-session of the best-of-nine frames final, though, as Hill helped himself to breaks of 59, 69 and 76 to boss his way to a 4-0 lead. The whitewash was averted by Staniland after the break and with an effort of 53 in frame six, he briefly threatened an unlikely comeback. However, despite a couple of wobbles in frame seven, Hill composed himself to get across the line and secure a 5-2 success.
The 18-year-old joins a roll of honour that lists former champions such as world ranking event winners Mark Allen, Michael White and Luca Brecel. He is the third player from the Republic of Ireland to conquer Europe’s premier youth accolade, following in the footsteps of Thomas Dowling in 1997 – the inaugural edition – and Josh Boileau in 2016. Hill is now guaranteed a place on the sport’s top tier for the 2020/21 and 2021/22 seasons.
Elsewhere in the tournament, England’s Sean Maddocks – finalist in the under-18 championship and the WSF Junior Open – bowed out to Ochoiski in the last 32. WSF Open runner-up Iulian Boiko of the Ukraine qualified as one of the top seeds, but his hopes were dashed by Harry Andrew Gosney (England) in the last 16. Winner of this season’s Challenge Tour Event Seven Dean Young (Scotland) was defeated by Julian Leclercq (Belgium) in the last 32.
Action continues in Portugal with the European 6-Red and Open Championships – the winner of the latter event will also collect a professional tour card.
Harry Andrew Gosney (England) 3-4 Hayden Staniland (England)
Dylan Emery (Wales) 3-4 Brian Ochoiski (France)
Mark Lloyd (England) 0-4 Aaron Hill (Republic of Ireland)
Ben Mertens (Belgium) 4-1 Daniel Holoyda (Poland)
Staniland 4-3 Ochoiski
Hill 4-1 Mertens
Staniland 2-5 Hill