Lothian duo, Michael Leslie (Bonnyrigg) and Craig MacGillivray (Granton) will fulfill personal ambitions this weekend when they captain Scotland at The HIBSF Home International Snooker Series at Prestatyn in Wales.
Scottish national champion MacGillivray reckons that it is the under-19 team, captained by Leslie, that are most likely to return north of the border next weekend with the trophy after a week-long battle against the English, Irish and Welsh, saying: “The under-19 team have a great chance next week if they all hold their form.
“The team is very strong throughout and have some exceptional talent, too. With Michael leading the team and supported by the likes of Eden Sharav, Scott Donaldson and Rhys Clark, they have some of the top players in Scotland at the moment and could be very difficult to beat.”
Leslie, 18, added: “I am really proud to captain Scotland this year. We went down last year with a good team, but this time round we are pretty much at full-strength and have a real shot at winning the title. I feel in good form going down after just having my first 147 break a couple of weeks ago.
“However, it won’t be easy. England are the defending champions and always have a strong team.”
The Home Internationals will provide Leslie with some good preparation for the new season with the Scottish ranking events starting next weekend.
Last season, he came close to turning professional after making the final of the European Under-21 championship and reaching the last 16 of the World Under-21 championship, but Leslie said: “I was so close last season to making it on to the professional tour, however, on reflection, another season or two as an amateur will give me more experience and prepare me better for making the step-up.
“The same happened to Scotland’s Anthony McGill a few seasons ago when he narrowly missed out on turning pro. However, he became a better player as a result and got on the next season and is now in the top 64 in the world.”
The reality of trying to live his dream is not lost on Leslie and he added: “It is tough. I don’t have a sponsor yet and rely mainly on my parents to subsidise the cost of international representation. The new governing body have been great and help out but to get to the next level I have to be playing in as many tournaments as possible and it costs money.”
Whilst Leslie is at the beginning of his career, former professional MacGillivray has the challenge of finding time to practice enough in between working nights as a taxi-driver.
MacGillivray said: “I haven’t played much over the last few months because my cue has been away being adjusted but also because I have been working a lot of hours during the Festival.
“Whether I have had enough time with the modified cue, time will tell, but I will certainly be ready for the World Amateur Championships in China later this year.” A passionate Scot, MacGillivray is relishing his role as captain and added: “I am really looking forward to the Home Internationals to get myself back into the thick of things.
“The senior team have had to cope with the withdrawal of a number of top players due to other commitments but the squad are all capable on their day and we will give it our all.”
Scotland: Craig MacGillivray (Granton), Bobby Cruickshanks (Perth), Sean Iqbal (Glasgow), Michael Collumb (Cumbernauld), Robert Carlisle (Edinburgh) and Mark Owens (Glasgow).
Scotland Under-19: Michael Leslie (Bonnyrigg), Eden Sharav (Alloa), Scott Donaldson (Perth), Rhys Clark (Hamilton), Campbell Dunlop (Kilmarnock), Thomas McLeod (Dunfermline), Ross Higgins (Glasgow) and Dylan Gault (Clydebank).