Christopher Clifford ready to take on world snooker greats such as Ronnie O'Sullivan, Judd Trump and Co at BetVictor Northern Ireland Open

Glendermott CC snooker player Christopher Clifford says he can’t wait to mix it with the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Selby, Judd Trump, John Higgins and Neil Robertson at the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open later this month.

Friday, 1st October 2021, 12:36 pm
Christopher Clifford practising ahead of the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open, which takes place in the Waterfront Hall later this month. Picture George Sweeney.

The 19-year-old local player, who faces World Amateur Champion, Gao Yang in the wildcard round, could even take on defending champion Trump in the first round should he upset the odds against the Chinese player.

And yet the Northern Ireland Open, which takes place at the Waterfront Hall from October 9th to 17th and will be shown live on Eurosport and Quest, will only be the second biggest tournament Clifford is competing in during that week.

The Waterside man, who in 2017 narrowly lost 3-2 to his father Davy in the North West Intermediate Championship final, admits it’s going to be a bit of a whirlwind week after his selection by Northern Ireland to compete in the European Championships in Portugal in the days leading up to his Waterfront Hall experience.

Glendermott C.C snooker player Christopher Clifford. Picture by George Sweeney

“I’m competing in the European Championships in Portugal all week and then I’ll fly back on the Friday and play my wildcard game on the Saturday,” stated Clifford, “It’s going to be a bit crazy but I’m just looking forward to the whole experience.

“Playing in Portugal will mean that I’ll have match practice going into the Northern Ireland Open because I’ll be playing in a tournament which will have all the top European players so that can only help my preparations.

“I think there are around 100 entries at the European Championships and we are split into groups of five, so I’ll have at least four matches no matter what happens. Then, if I manage to qualify, I’ll get another few games and that’s my target, to try and get out of the group and then see what happens after that.”

As for facing Chinese teenager Yang, Clifford knows he’s going to be coming up against a top class opponent but he’s already excited about the whole experience of playing on the big stage in front of some of the greats of the modern game.

“He’s the world amateur champion which says everything about his ability. He’s professional now but as he has already won the World Amateur Championship he’s going to be talented but, to be fair, all professionals are going to be decent,” he explained.

“It’s going to be a great experience and I’m buzzing to get the chance. Spectators are allowed into the Waterfront so, yeah, there’s going to be a few making the trip to Belfast to support me.”

Due to Covid, Clifford hasn’t played many tournaments locally during the past 18 months but in the one competition he did participate in, the modest left-hander was happy with his performance as he claimed the Northern Ireland Under 21 title.

“There were no real tournaments until the Northern Ireland U21 Championships in June which I won, but overall there weren’t any other tournaments because of Covid. It was virtually a blank year apart from the U21 championship, but this year’s season does start soon.

“I have been working hard on the practice table, putting the hours in at Glendermott CC, but it’s hard when you are working away as well. However, I’m still getting my hours in every day, because I know I’ll need it.”