IF DESIRE won you ranking tournaments, Mark Williams wouldn’t even be close to going all the way in the Dafabet Northern Ireland Open, writes Ross Lawson.

Luckily for the Cwm cueman, his skill in Belfast this week has far eclipsed anything in his mind after going within one victory of a first ranking title in six years.

Beating Elliot Slessor 6-2 at the Waterfront Hall means Williams is tantalisingly close to getting his hands on the Alex Higgins Trophy.

One more match against either Yan Bingtao or Lu Haotian awaits tomorrow but for now the world number 16 is keen to revel in an experience that has already been a long time coming.

“I don’t have the same desire as I did, I used to play every hour God gives but I am playing a lot more than I have been over the past few years,” he said after reaching the final.

“I’m enjoying it a lot more and so long as I’m doing that I’ll keep playing.

“It’s been a really good week and I’ve not been in the final for a while, if you’d have told me that I was going to get to the final at the start of the week then I would have taken it.

“I’ve been here quite a few times quite a few years ago, but you’ve just go to put whoever is the favourite out of your head.”

This is already Williams’ second ranking final of 2017 – he was runner-up in the China Open – with his last victory coming in 2011 at the German Masters.

But a remarkable week in Belfast saw him emerge as the highest-ranked potter as early as the last-16, with the tag of favourite very quickly on his shoulders.

Expectation is therefore very evident but if success is to come his way, it would be a first on British soil in a ranking tournament for 14 years.

Opportunities won’t come much bigger than this though, with the usually laid-back Welshman offering a rare sign of emotion with a fist pump come the final pot against Slessor.

“I played alright, he missed a few and it could have been a little bit closer,” added Williams.

“I didn’t play as well as I did in the earlier games.

“When I nicked one to go 5-2 it was pretty much all over, he wasn’t really there in the last frame because he dropped his head, I could see that from the start.

“In best of sevens we have seen shocks this week but they’re not the kind of things you’re going to see next week in the UK Championship, it’s just one of those things.

“I’m looking forward to the game – I’ll go out, have some food and watch the other semi-final, hopefully they’ll sweat it out 6-5 on the final black!”

You can watch the Northern Ireland Open live on Eurosport, Eurosport Player and Quest with daily studio analysis from Neal Foulds.