Darren Morgan was as surprised as anyone to find himself back at the business end of a professional tournament this summer.
The retired Welsh potter was handed a wildcard to the Riga Masters, after victory at the European Amateur Championship. He went on a sensational run in Latvia to reach the last four.
Morgan experienced further success in the amateur ranks last month, as he captured the IBSF Amateur World Six Reds title. The win ensured that Morgan would once again take his place among the professional ranks with an invite to next week’s Sangsom Six Reds World Championship in Thailand…
Darren, congratulations on winning the IBSF Six Reds World Championship. How pleased are you with the victory and how much are you looking forward to the World Snooker professional event next week?
“I was very happy to win. The IBSF events are normally against the younger guys and it’s nice to prove that I’ve still got it, even at 50 years-old. It will be great to get another chance to be in with the professionals and see some old friends. Six Red events are a great leveller, if you hit form at the right moment then you will have a good chance. Anyone can beat anyone in this format.”
You produced a great performance in Riga to reach the semi-finals. How did it feel to roll back the years and reach the latter stages of a ranking event?
“I didn’t even expect to be in the tournament. I won the European Amateur Championship, but had no idea that winning gained you a wildcard entry for Riga. If I’m being honest I wasn’t even going to play. Lee Walker is a good friend of mine and he said to me that it was worth giving it a go and that if anything it would be good to catch up with old friends from the tour. I knew I only had to win one match to cover my costs for entering.
“I had to beat a couple of really good players along the way, so I was delighted to reach the semi-final stage. I faced Zhao Xintong in the last 32 and having watched him in the ISBF events I knew he was an unbelievable player. Despite facing such a tough opponent I played great and managed to get through. Ken Doherty was probably a really good draw for me in the last 16. It just helped that we both know each other’s games so well. I kept pinching myself each round until eventually I was in the semi-final. Unfortunately, I bumped into Neil Robertson in the last four who is a sensational player. I had chances in the first frame but after that he just played perfect snooker.”
How do you manage your practise now considering you have other work obligations?
“I don’t really play much at all. I try to get 20 minutes in here and there whenever it’s possible. If I have a tournament coming up, I’ll try to get a bit in each day in the lead up. However, I work 50 hours a week now and snooker isn’t my career anymore. I’ve owned the Red Triangle snooker hall in Crosskeys for 14 years and in 2009 I opened up my sports shop below it. That keeps me occupied now so I really don’t have any time for practise.”
What’s the key to being able to just slip back in and be able to play as well as you can with such little practise?
“I think for the last several years I have been entering the amateur events and winning regularly, having won world and European level. So I went into the tournament in Riga with the same mentality, that everything I enter I do so to win. That probably is the difference between now and the last ten years before I retired.Towards the end of my professional career I became a bit of a journeyman, most of the time I’d simply turn up and then get beat.”
Does your recent form make you interested in entering into more events?
“Not really to be honest. I’ve had my time on the tour and now have other business commitments. I enjoy the tournaments I go to and it’s great to be able to keep in touch with people. Of course I still enjoy playing so if I can get any invites then I’m still keen to play!”