Joe Swail came within a frame of having his pro career ended three times at Q School, but still managed to keep his place on the tour.
The two-time Crucible semi-finalist was relegated from the tour at the end of last season but bounced straight back with a fresh two-year card. He needed a mixture of luck and determination at Q School and admits he “got out of jail” just when it looked as if he was set to join the amateur ranks.
Now age 47, popular Belfast potter Swail still believes he can make an impact at the top level. We caught up with the former world number ten as he looked ahead to the new season.
Joe, how relieved were you to get through Q School?
Given the form that I had been in at the end of last season, it was unexpected. I didn’t prepare properly for Q School because I didn’t think I would have much of a chance. I was more or less ready to put away my cue. Subconsciously that probably took the pressure off me. To get the right result in the end – I’m delighted.
In the first event you lost 4-3 in the third round to Ng On Yee, how did you feel after that match?
Not good! I expected to win that match but On Yee played well and did her job. I actually thought about pulling out of event two. I went to Manchester for a couple of days and met up with friends and then decided to keep playing. I was 3-1 down in my next match against Clayton Humphries but came back to win 4-3 and the rest is history.
In fact you were 3-2 down to Zak Surety and then won another decider against Joel Walker. How did you do it?
I suppose my experience got me through in the end. The last frame is always the hardest to win, and there were players who had chances to put me away – but they didn’t. Maybe winning and losing meant more to them than it did to me. I’ve had a good career and if it had ended, I would have been ok with that. I have my coaching and other things away from snooker which I can focus more on when I stop playing. As it turns out I have another two years on the tour and that can’t do any harm.
Do you think you can climb back up the rankings?
Yes, I believe I can. On any given day I can beat the best of them. Consistency has always been my problem so I need to get better on that side. My results over the last two years were not great and that’s why I ended up dropping off the tour. But I’ll be working hard now to get back up there. I realise I have got out of jail and been handed another chance. But at this stage of my career I just want to enjoy snooker.
You’ve had laser surgery on both your eyes over the past two years, how are they now?
Apart from all the walking into walls and tables? You can’t stop the ageing process but my eyesight should be fine now for the next ten or 15 years. Whether I’m still playing snooker for that long remains to be seen.
Watch Joe play in the China Championship qualifiers in Preston next month – for details click here