Some of the best snooker players in the world have been playing in Barnsley with the final days of their 2019 calendar taking place this weekend. The qualifying tournaments for the European Masters and German Masters began on Tuesday and run until Sunday with free entry for spectators and sessions at 10am, 2.30pm and 7pm.
Ebdon told the Chronicle: “The conditions were incredibly good and the best I have played in all season. I thought that someone had put Mr Sheen on all the balls. You had to get used to it but it was better to play on that than a slow table. I am not sure whether it was the atmospherics or the tables, but it was great. The Metrodome is a good venue. It can be a bit too hot in the summer but most of the lads like it here.”
Former world champion Shaun Murphy, now ranked tenth in the world, told the Chronicle: “I am very happy to be here because I was sick for a few days and very nearly pulled out. I was in bed with a fever, a temperature of 40.7 and shivering like I was on an Antarctic expedition. But I dragged myself to Barnsley. I still feel terrible and, if we got sickpay, I wouldn’t have come, but we don’t.
“This venue improved over the years. We have a players’ lounge now instead of being up in the bowling alley. You can see that World Snooker, along with the people who run the Metrodome, have tried a little bit harder to help us out because, as a game, we spend a lot of money with this venue and we come here a lot. We all know the Metrodome really well and all the back corridors.
"I have always played well here and get a lot of support here because people think I am from South Yorkshire, which I am not. I lived in Rotherham for three years. I will take the support even though I don’t really deserve it.”
Entry for both events is free for spectators. Murphy, who played his first game on Wednesday morning, said: “It’s incredible value, but it’s still not full which is interesting. “There was a decent number watching myself and Stuart Bingham but the seats for the other tables were empty. I am not sure what that says. Many people are at work during the week so hopefully the crowds get a bit bigger at the weekend.”
Ebdon added: “It’s been reasonably well-supported here and we’d like to see as many fans as possible. It’s very cold so it’s hard to tempt people out but we’re delighted when local people come out to support us because that is what we are here for.”
Australian former world champion Neil Robertson, who missed the last event at the Metrodome after accidentally driving to the tiny Gloucestershire village of Barnsley, was caught in traffic and arrived late for his match on Tuesday evening. He forfeited the first frame but came back to beat Nigel Bond. Murphy said: “Nothing shocks us with Robertson anymore. We have the world rankings and money list but, if we had the world missed matches list, he would be top of that by some distance.”
Other players at Barnsley this week include current world champion Judd Trump as well as Mark Williams, Jimmy White and John Higgins. There was a clash of two former world champions on Wednesday when Mark Selby won 5-4 against Ken Doherty.
Today, Ebdon is due to play at 10am with Williams and Ding Junhui in action from 2.30pm and Robertson one of the competitors from 7pm. Tomorrow, Doherty plays at 10am followed by Murphy, Trump and Selby in the 2.30pm session then the 7pm players include Higgins.