Ken Doherty - 25 years On From His Greatest Triumph At The Crucible

The 52-year-old from Dublin won the World Championship in 1997...
15:30, 05 Jan 2022

Ken Doherty will head back to the Crucible Theatre later this year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of one of Ireland’s great sporting triumphs. 

The 52-year-old from Dublin won the World Championship in 1997 by halting the dominant Stephen Hendry’s bid for a sixth world title in a row. 

That famous 18-12 victory saw Doherty welcomed home with an open-top bus parade through Dublin, and police chiefs telling him crime stopped in the city for hours during the crucial frames. 

And in action this week at the UK Seniors Championship in Hull, Doherty recalled his greatest Sheffield memory ahead of what will be a special evening with Hendry and others in the summer. 

Doherty said: “I suppose the 5th May 1997 is the day that defined my life really – wherever you go after that day you are referred to as the world champion. 

“When I saw Alex Higgins win it in 1982 I knew I wanted to be a snooker player, and then there was Dennis Taylor also from Northern Ireland in 1985. 

“So to emulate them and win it weas a dream come true, and especially to beat Stephen in the final who was going for six in a row and hadn’t lost there for so long. That was the icing on the cake. 

“25 years…the time has gone quick. The open-top bus was just unbelievable, that’s something you get for the Ireland football team or Olympic heroes – not snooker. But it had that impact. 

“Coming in to the 1997 World Championship I had had an okay season, but the immediate run-up wasn’t great with three-first-round defeats and my confidence was low. 

“So I decided to ask Ronnie O’Sullivan for some serious practice at the club in Ilford, which we hadn’t really done, just for the Crucible. 

“So every day for two weeks we played really hard, best-of-19s, even two best-of-19s if they went quick, and more often than not against Ronnie they did go quick. 

“And it meant we both went to Sheffield really sharp. Ronnie of course made that incredible maximum 147 that year in just over five minutes. 

“And after a slow first match against Mark Davis where I scraped through, there was a weight off, I beat Steve Davis, John Higgins, Alain Robidoux and then Stephen. 

“Even though it was my first world final the fact I had beaten him in other finals took away some of the fear factor for me. I was a huge underdog, but I really went out to enjoy it. 

“It was like his home table, he was so calm and confident out there, and he made three centuries in the first session – but I showed him I was confident too. 

“After having a big lead I got a bit twitchy at 15-12, he had come back so often – but after getting to 16-12 I got it done. 

“But I am going to entice Stephen to come back to the Crucible for a special night to celebrate the 25th anniversary of me winning it. 

“He can talk about his great defeat! But we’ll get Dennis Taylor and John Virgo along too, and there will be a lot of funny stories. But hopefully I can qualify one last time to play there before then.” 

Doherty last appeared on the sport’s most iconic stage back in 2014, but since then has not managed to get through the incredibly tough qualifying process for all those no longer in the elite top 16 in the world rankings. On that occasion he famously knelt down after walking through the curtain and down the stairs into the arena, and kissed the carpet. 

But although 1997 was the high-water mark in his many happy years spent in Sheffield, there were other, earlier memories that also survive the passing of the years. 

Doherty added: “The first time I made it there as a player was 1991 – I did go once as a 14-year-old as a competition winner – I am there sitting next to the great Steve Davis playing him in the first round. I was so nervous and intimidated being next to one of the game’s greatest legends. 

“I found myself 4-0 down in an hour and I had to shake myself up in the dressing room. But I went 5-4 up, and also 8-6 up – only to eventually lose 10-8, but it was an incredible experience.  

“And then in 1994 I played Alex Higgins in the first round, the last time he ever played got to the Crucible in the World Championship. It was a match I didn’t enjoy too much. It was very exciting to play him, but he was on the way down and he was arguing with John Williams the referee. 

“He was telling the ref to move, and when John said ‘Alex, I’m not in your line of sight’ Higgins memorably said ‘No, but you’re in my line of thought’! He was drinking as the match went on, and it was a bit of a hollow victory as he was my hero growing up and I will always revere him. He brought me into snooker.” 

 

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