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Page last updated at 19:31 GMT, Sunday, 28 February 2010

Muir and McGill give hope to Scottish snooker fans

Ross Muir and Anthony McGill
Muir and McGill pose with their Star of the Future trophies

By Keir Murray

The future of Scottish snooker looks to be in good hands after three Scots won at the Lt Col Sir Walter Rowley Festival in Prestatyn in Wales last weekend.

Glasgow's Anthony McGill, 19, Musselburgh's Ross Muir, 14, and Joseph McLaren from Clydebank, who is only 13, each won a trophy at the prestigious Star of the Future event.

Previous winners include Jimmy White, John Parrott and Ronnie O'Sullivan.

The tournament featured the top junior players from across the UK, with McGill coming out on top from 112 players in the 15-20 age group, and Muir emerging the victor from a pool of 52 players in the Under-14 category.

McLaren, meanwhile, won the best performance in the Plate competition, which was for all the players in the 14 and under category who did not make it to the knock-out stages.

Scotland, of course, has produced some great snooker players: Stephen Hendry, Graeme Dott, John Higgins, Stephen Maguire and Alan McManus, for example.

I want to turn professional and be in the top 16 players in the world one day

Musselburgh's Ross Muir

Maguire and Higgins, ranked two and four respectively in the world, are evidently at the top of their game, but the determination and natural talent displayed by Muir and McGill could mean there will be some Scottish representation in world snooker in the years to come.

Muir, "the Musselburgh Potshot", is clear about his ambition.

"I want to turn professional and be in the top 16 players in the world one day," he told BBC Scotland.

"I am the Under-16s Scottish champion and ranked number one in the country.

"The Star of the Future title is really the biggest thing you can win at my age. It's the closest thing you can get to a UK championship for juniors.

"I am delighted to have come back home with the trophy."

The third-year pupil beat Fareham's Adam Babat 3-1 to win the title and a £3,000 sponsorship deal with Pontin's.

Ross Muir in action
Muir, 14, is the Scottish under-16s champion

Muir began playing pool at the age of five and on a full-size snooker table aged 10.

"My dad used to take me to Marco's snooker club in Edinburgh. I loved it," he said.

In the space of two years, young Muir had constructed a break of 113. Two years on again and his highest break stands at 142.

Despite his single-mindedness regarding his chosen career, he is clear about his priorities.

"I practise four or five nights a week, travelling 20-30 minutes by car to play in a club in Morningside. But I do my school homework first; there's no question about that," said an assured Muir.

"My mum and dad support me really well. They come to all my tournaments."

One of his parents' proudest moments was when Muir won the Junior Pot Black tournament at the Crucible and got to play Tony Knowles in a trial Super 6 format (six red balls).

Part of that match was shown to more than 50 million worldwide viewers in the mid-session interval of the World Snooker Championship final between Higgins and Shaun Murphy last May.

McGill, from Tollcross in Glasgow's east end, added to his PIOS Event 5 victory a few months ago with a 4-1 victory over Wales' Jamie Clarke in the final of the 15-20 year-old age group.

His parents built a room at the back of their house to accommodate a full-size snooker table for their 12-year-old prodigy.

He completed his first 147 aged 15 in a club match but had been racking up century breaks from the age of 13.

Recalling his Star of the Future win a few days earlier, McGill said: "It was brilliant to win it. I was quite cool. I got excited but not nervous. I just soak it up really.

Snooker is definitely on the up again

Anthony McGill

"I played in the Junior Pot Black final at the Crucible in 2006, losing to Stuart Carrington, so that was good experience for me.

"I started off playing pool on holiday. When I left school a few years ago I just decided to give it a go. It was my favourite thing to do.

"I want to be the best player in the world."

Making a living from the game will, of course, depend on his progress and the level of prize money in the future.

Fortunately for McGill, the owner of the Lucky Break snooker club in Clydebank allows him to play for free, and the £3,000 sponsorship winnings at the Pontin's Prestatyn event will mean his accommodation costs shouldn't be such a worry.

"Snooker is definitely on the up again," he said.

"To save money, the Scottish players tend to share hotel rooms when we are playing at events and some of them were in the crowd to cheer me on in the final.

"I practise six or seven hours a day, doing a bit of break-building, long potting and also playing proper games."

Muir and McGill share a hero in Higgins, the three-time world champion.

If this pair fulfil their potential, they will be the heroes of the next generation of Scottish snooker players.

see also
Knowles is crowned Super 6 king
23 Apr 09 |  Snooker
Snooker to trial shorter format
09 Apr 09 |  Snooker

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