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CLARKE AND O'CONNOR TRIUMPHS EBSA PLAY-OFFS

Jamie Clarke and Joe O’Connor have come through the EBSA Play-Offs at the English Institute for Sport in Sheffield to each earn a two-year ticket to the World Snooker Tour from the start of next season.

The pair were among eight players competing in Wednesday’s event having qualified by virtue of their results during the amateur rounds of this year’s Paul Hunter Classic and Gibraltar Open earlier this season.

First to qualify was Welshman Jamie Clarke after he came through a deciding-frame against George Pragnall to win 4-3. Following a 4-2 victory against former World Championship semi-finalist Andy Hicks earlier in the afternoon, he edged out Norwich’s Pragnall to earn a place on the professional circuit for the first time.

The 23-year-old has come agonisingly close to qualifying for the main tour on several previous occasions, including twice losing in the final of the EBSA European Championship and twice in deciding-frames at the EBSA Play-Offs in recent years but will now realise his dream of becoming a professional snooker player for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons.

“It has been five years of complete heartbreak and it has been worth it,” said the Llanelli-born player. “Two years ago I lost a few deciders – I don’t know what kept me going to be honest, a lot of heart and courage and I have kept coming back.

“It means everything, I have worked really hard for it and I am just relieved. I know that I can compete on the tour. I don’t know if I will stay on or anything but if I can get a bit of confidence and work hard we will see what happens.”

Joining Clarke on the tour will be Joe O’Connor after the Englishman defeated Brandon Sargeant 4-1 and then Oliver Brown 4-0 to secure a two-year tour card for the first time.

The Leicester-based player will now be hoping to become the latest successful player from the city following in the footsteps of the likes of Mark Selby, Tom Ford and Ben Woollaston and he has experience on the main tour having previously been invited to compete at several events as an amateur following impressive performances at Q School.

“I don’t know what to say to be honest, all of the hard work has paid off,” said the 22-year-old. “I didn’t play really well today but it was good match snooker and that’s all you can ask for. All that matters is the result and to be on the main tour is what you aspire to when you start to play snooker.”

“I hope that my previous experience on the tour will help massively. A few years ago I got invited to a lot of the professional tournaments so I am quite experienced playing in that environment – but being a pro is not easy!”

With both Clarke and O’Connor’s places now confirmed we are now a step closer to knowing the full field for the 2018/19 World Snooker Tour.

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