Snooker ace James Cahill a Blackpool star in making

James Cahill in 2011
James Cahill in 2011
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Blackpool-born snooker amateur James Cahill made headlines around the world this week after defeating the sport’s most successful player in the first round of the World Championships. James Graves looks at the rising star’s career.

Blackpool’s James Cahill pulled off the biggest shock in snooker history this week by defeating world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round of the World Championships in Sheffield.

James with mum Maria in 2014

James with mum Maria in 2014

The first amateur ever to qualify for the Crucible, the 23-year-old from Marton won a nail biting battle of nerves to defy a comeback by the five-champion and close out a 10-8 victory.

James qualified after making it through three qualifying rounds as a wildcard.

His biggest supporter has always been his mum Maria, who was a leading female player in the 1980s and 90s. Maria was unable to make a living from the sport and instead forged a career managing snooker clubs including a Riley’s club in Blackpool.

Maria and husband Patrick own Stephen Hendry’s Snooker Club in Preston, which has a Star table for their son to practice on.

Snooker talent also runs in the family with seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry once being married (for 19 years) to James’ maternal aunt, Mandy.

They separated in 2014 but James remains best friends with his uncle Stephen’s son, Blaine, 22.

Coached by Chris Henry, James is said to practice eight hours a day and, prior to Sheffield, boasted career earnings of £80,357.

Taking an interest in pool from the age of four, James would stand on beer crates to reach the table and took to snooker at the age of 10.

Aged 17 in 2013, he turned professional after winning the European under-21 Championships but his form dipped and he had to borrow money to travel to tournaments and considered giving up the game as he lost pro-status (and subsequently his tour card) in 2017.

Before the 10-8 win against O’Sullivan his most notable success came with victory over world No 3 Ding Junhui at the UK Championship in 2014, which led him to reach a career high ranking of 76.

The win over O’Sullivan this week was the second time the amateur has beaten the world number one in a matter of months.

James knocked out Mark Selby in the opening round of the UK Championship last year, winning 6-3.

That helped him earn a new tour card via the one-year ranking list, ensuring he will be a full-time professional once more next season.

James and Maria spoke to The Gazette back in 2014 and explained how without sponsorship, he has needed to rely on his snooker winnings and the help of a supportive family to subsidise his quest for green baize glory.

James told The Gazette: “I am looking for a sponsorship and it would be great if someone came along.

“It has been difficult. You need to do well in tournaments just to cover the expenses of entering. And you need to keep winning to make sure you can enter the next one.

“I have had to miss certain tournaments because I just couldn’t afford it. I won a bit of money last week, so hopefully that will keep me going for a while.”

Proud mum Maria said she has done all she can to help foot the bill for James to pursue his dream.

“Half of the tournaments are abroad and we can’t afford to travel to them all. The sport has really taken off in the Far East but it costs around £3,000 to get to China.

“Everyone seems to assume he has sponsorship already. There has been some interest but it’s really about finding the right person.”