UK Championship 2014: Neil Robertson test excites O'Connor

By Owen PhillipsBBC Sport at the Barbican Centre, York
Teenager wants to emulate Selby
UK Championship
Venue: Barbican Centre, York Dates: 25 November - 9 December
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One, Two, Red Button, online, mobiles and BBC Sport app from 29 November

Teenager Joe O'Connor's rise from precocious pool player to a UK Championship date with one of snooker's biggest names has come at a cost.

The Leicester amateur faces defending champion Neil Robertson in the first round at the York Barbican on Thursday.

But O'Connor, 19, who won "pretty much everything he could" playing pool as a junior, knows a life constantly mixing with snooker's elite will be tough.

"If you want to be at the top you have to sacrifice," he said.

Talking to BBC Radio Leicester, the lowest-ranked player in the field of 128 in York continued: "If you sacrifice enough and work hard then hopefully you can get where you want.

"Pool is a totally different environment to snooker. Pool is a much more relaxing game."

World Snooker Champion Mark Selby on fellow Leicester player O'Connor:
"It's great for Joe to be playing Neil. It's great experience. I have known Joe for many years. He won numerous titles playing English pool and it's great he is giving it a go on the snooker tour."I have not played him since he has taken up snooker. His dad keeps asking me to give him a game but I have had quite a lot on in the last few weeks so it's been difficult. Hopefully in the future I will be able to give him some tips and practise with him."

But O'Connor is enjoying the challenge and quite happy to put in the graft.

He wants snooker to be his career, something he soon realised would not happen if he stuck with pool.

"I knew I couldn't earn enough from it so I moved into snooker," explained O' Connor. "It's the way to go, but it has been a long process until the last year.

"I did well in Q Schoolexternal-link last year, got to the last round and almost turned professional, which is my dream.

"And it's progressed massively from there. I qualified for China in the Wuxi Classic, which was amazing, and now I am playing Neil Robertson.

"I do have to pinch myself sometimes. With every tournament it becomes more real. It's an honour doing what I do as a job."

And Leicester's snooker talent is provided the perfect inspiration for him to continue his progress.

World champion Mark Selby is from the area, and Tom Ford and Ben Woollaston are also both local.

O'Connor said: "I practise with Tom Ford. Mark lives around here, and so does Ben Woollaston.

"It's good to play with good players because it improves me and when I am playing them it makes me realise that's where I want to be."