13 Jun 2008 10:11:00
Northern Ireland Trophy finalist and self-confessed chocoholic O'Brien reflects on last season and looks ahead to the new campaign.
How would you sum up last season?
Very good. I'd give myself 8/10, taking one point off for not winning the final in Belfast, and another one for not qualifying for the Crucible. I started the season 37th in the rankings and finished 24th so it must have been a good one. I had a few years of slipping down the rankings, then the previous season I got back from 46 to 37, so it was nice to keep that momentum going.
What was the highlight of the season?
Obviously getting to the final in Belfast, especially beating the likes of John Higgins and Ronnie O'Sullivan. It had been a long time since my last big final so it felt great to be back. But I was very disappointed to lose to Stephen Maguire.
And the low point?
Losing 10-5 to Jamie Cope in the final qualifying round for the Crucible. You could win six ranking tournaments in the season but if you didn't make it to Sheffield you'd still be disappointed. I just didn't play well on the day, my performance wasn't good enough.
Did you make any changes last season which helped you?
My concentration and focus was very good. I think that's because I prepared better for tournaments and managed to peak at the right times. There had been times in the past where I had gone into events feeling burnt out, so last season I tried to be smarter by fine-tuning my preparation rather than practising too much. The best way to feel going into a tournament is to be fresh and looking forward to playing.
What are your targets for next season?
To win a tournament and to keep going the right way up the rankings. I start the season 21st provisionally so I've got a good chance of the top 16. If you offered me a title and a top 16 place, I'd take it!
What are you up to over the summer?
I've already had a holiday in Spain and one in Blackpool. I put my cue down for seven weeks to take a proper break and spend some time with my wife Jean and daughter Isobel. I'll probably play a bit of golf - my handicap is 18 but I've not been able to play that much in the last couple of years since Isobel was born.
Are you still addicted to Wispa bars?
They came back for a while at the end of last year, but since then I've not been able to get them, which has been a disaster. A couple if Wispas in March and I would have qualified for the Crucible.