Aaron Hill begins his third attempt to qualify for the World Snooker Championships tomorrow morning.
The Cork teenager will face Ashley Hugill at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, and the game is best of 11 frames. It's the first of a potential four matches he must win if he wants to make it to the Crucible Theatre, with the tournament proper starting on Saturday week.
Early highlights in Hill's career included a trip to the final of the 2019 Challenge Tour event in Bruges where he met Hugill, but lost 3-1. In the same season he reached the last 32 of the Shootout, including a victory over Kyren Wilson.
But it was a brilliant week in March of last year in which he won the EBSA European Under-18 and crucially the Under-21 titles that granted him a two-year tour card, which allows him to compete at the sport's biggest events.
"Looking back now I'll take the season I’ve had," he tells RTÉ Sport ahead of arguably one of biggest matches of his career.
"A few good wins and I’ve picked up a nice few ranking points. I could have won more but for a first season I won’t be too hard on myself. It’d be nice to do some damage in the World Championships to make next season a bit tastier."
His first pro season has seen Hill reach the last 64 at the German Masters, as well as the Welsh and Gibraltar Opens. It puts him at 85 in the one-year ranking list.
Without a doubt though the highlight of the campaign came at the European Masters in September.
A 5-2 victory over Andy Hicks in the first round set him up for a crack at world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan. Hill burst out of the blocks to lead 3-1, but the Rocket won three frames in a row to move one away from a place in the next round.
Hill wasn't rattled though, showing nerves of steel to reel off the last two frames, including a break of 78 in the decider, as he put O'Sullivan out.
He then recorded a victory over Matthew Stevens before ultimately bowing out to Yan Bingtao in the last 16. His week's work netted him around €7,000 - not bad for a 19-year-old.
"Unbelievable," he says of the victory over the Rocket.
"People are still talking about it months later. I don't think the buzz of beating him will ever go away - it’s always going to be there. Back home now I’m getting noticed, all because of one win."
HILL STUNS O'SULLIVAN ??— Live Snooker (@Livesnooker) September 24, 2020
18-year-old tour debutant Aaron Hill makes a 78 break in the deciding frame to seal a 5-4 scalp of reigning World Champion Ronnie O'Sullivan! ???? #EuropeanMasters pic.twitter.com/jzY3vn8XAj
Hill is in the fortunate position of being able to practice snooker in his own back garden, with his Dad Stephen having built a room to put a professional standard table into.
On top of that when he's home in Cork he's only a stone's throw from the Crucible Club in the city, where he counts Greg Casey, David Cassidy and Ryan Cronin among his practice partners.
In order to get more match preparation in he spent five weeks in the UK earlier this year. He has family in Liverpool and is able to practice with Allan Taylor, who has been on tour since 2013, when he's over there.
The exemption for elite sports stars allows him to travel, and he’s been back in England since the end of last month preparing for what he hopes will be a run in the qualifiers.
"My form has been good," he points out.
"It’s improved since Christmas. I’ve been working hard on and off the table for the last couple of months so hopefully it pays off this week."