Martin O’Donnell has defeated Ross Muir 5-1 to win the sixth and final event of the 2022/23 WPBSA Q Tour. The victory means that O’Donnell will finish top of this season’s Q Tour Rankings and will return to the World Snooker Tour from the start of next season.
A professional from 2012-2014 and 2015-2022, O’Donnell has enjoyed an impressive campaign on the WPBSA Q Tour, highlighted by victory at Event 2 in Brighton which helped him to sixth position in the rankings prior to the final event.
In the final he faced Scotland’s Ross Muir – top of the rankings since his victory at the very first event back in September – who was also competing in his second final this term and was looking to regain his professional status for the first time since 2019.
It was O’Donnell who made the perfect start with a total clearance of 142, followed by breaks of 54 and 50 on his way to a 4-0 lead at the mid-session interval. Muir claimed the first upon the resumption of play to keep his hopes alive, but it was ultimately England’s O’Donnell who would claim a tense sixth following a safety battle on the final red to ensure that his absence from the main tour would be limited to only a single season.
“It is really nice,” said O’Donnell shortly after the final. “It has been a lot of hard work since I dropped off the tour and it’s nice that it has paid off so quickly and I have finished at the top of the Q Tour this season.
“The standard [on Q Tour] is really high, that surprised me actually. I dropped off and I came to these and there are a lot of good players. A lot of good players that I hadn’t seen before and it’s hard. With the best of fives, it’s granite on the Saturday and you can lose at any moment, so you can’t get carried away.
“I took a bit of time out after I dropped off and wasn’t really sure what I was going to do. I didn’t want to give up. I ended up changing my cue which has given me a new lease of life and I have also got my head down and tried to think a lot more positively and not really worry about consequences – which I did when I was on tour.
“I got caught up and worried about stuff, but you drop off tour and life goes on. You don’t realise it sometimes when you are on tour, I’ve got two kids, beautiful fiancé, good people around me and they pick you up and reassure you that you can do it. We all believe that I should be playing snooker and luckily now I have got my tour card back and hopefully I can kick on.
“I need to improve myself every day, keep a good routine and keep doing the right things and just enjoy it. When you do all the right things you go to tournaments and you do enjoy it because you know that you are so prepared so it takes away a lot of the anxiety.”
The manner of O’Donnell’s triumph was all the more impressive as the former Shoot Out semi-finalist had previously missed out on competing in the penultimate event of the season due to illness, which saw him lose ground to some of the players around him. He revealed after the final, however, that this gave him added motivation heading into the decisive competition in Leeds this weekend.
“I missed the last one through sickness,” added the 36-year-old. ” It was the first competition that I have ever missed through being sick, but once I got better and then I checked what happened in that event, to be honest I was quite delighted that it was still in my own hands. I knew that if I could meet Ross [Muir] in the final and beat him, that I could still qualify, so I just thought ‘get my head down, come here and give every ball 200%’ and see where it would take me.
“I am super proud with the way that I have dealt with my emotions this week. In the past, missing that last tournament from being in a good position would have affected me. But I used it this time to motivate me and just say ‘it’s in my hands, go there and leave it all on the table and if it doesn’t happen there is still the playoff’ and thankfully it has paid dividends.”
O’Donnell was one of 13 players who came into the final event in contention to claim the automatic tour card, but there were just three remaining on the final day with Billy Castle also still in range of top spot.
The trio each won their quarter-finals to progress to the last four, but it would be Muir who would account for Castle following a dramatic deciding-frame in their semi-final, while O’Donnell edged fellow former professional Steve Hallworth 4-2 to reach the title match.
The highest ranked 16 players who did not qualify, will at least have the consolation of having earned a place at the Q Tour Playoffs later this season, with a chance to earn the second World Snooker Tour card available through the Q Tour. Simon Bedford entered the final day needing to win the tournament to oust 17th placed Peter Devlin, but he too would fall to O’Donnell at the quarter-final stage.
The 2023 WPBSA Q Tour Playoffs will be held from 4-5 March 2023 at the Q House Snooker Academy in Darlington and the draw will be published in due course.