Doherty relishing return to Crucible

1997 snooker world champion Ken Doherty celebrating at Sheffield's Swallow Hotel. Pic: Paul Barker/PA Wire.
1997 snooker world champion Ken Doherty celebrating at Sheffield's Swallow Hotel. Pic: Paul Barker/PA Wire.
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In 40 years of the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible, he was one of its most popular winners.

But Ken Doherty admits he struggles to comprehend that his finest hour came two decades ago, at that cosy theatre in the heart of the Steel City.

Ireland's Ken Doherty, the new Embassy World Snooker Champion, displays the trophy after defeating six-times champion Stephen Hendry at the Crucible in Sheffield. Photo by Paul Barker/PA.

Ireland's Ken Doherty, the new Embassy World Snooker Champion, displays the trophy after defeating six-times champion Stephen Hendry at the Crucible in Sheffield. Photo by Paul Barker/PA.

“It’s flashed by, to be honest,” the Irishman smiled.

“I can’t believe it’s been 20 years.

“When I was world champion, it all just seems a blur. I had such a great year as world champion, but it all went by so fast as I did so many things. It was incredible.

“But I had such a good year, I didn’t want to give the cup back, I wanted to hold on to it for as long as I could.

“It was sat on my mother’s television in the front room in Ranelagh, Dublin.

“She used to clean it every day and people would come in and have their picture taken with it. Every day I walked in the house I would give it a big kiss then put it back down on top of the TV.

“The amount of people who would call to the door, because they would see it in the window when they pass by.

“Strangers would come into the house to have their picture taken with the trophy, no problem.

“My mum lived in an avenue, a nice community, and everyone knew her house. My mum was famous, everyone knew her, but she never liked the attention.”

Her son, though, had to come to terms with that pretty quickly. Doherty is now a member of the BBC commentary team but, at 47, is still playing and came through his first-round Crucible qualifying game against Jason Weston on Saturday with a 10-4 victory.

He’ll also appear alongside a host of fellow former champions on Friday in a celebration of 40 years of snooker in Sheffield. The Crucible has that lure that keeps drawing Doherty back to the Steel City.

He was a 40-1 outsider at the start of the tournament in 1997, before he beat the mighty Stephen Hendry in the final, and appeared in two more Crucible finals at the height of his powers.

“I still play, but I wish I was half the player I was back then,” he laughed. “I love the game, always have.

“Even when I do retire, I would always like to be involved in the sport.

“I love doing exhibitions, competing, but the travelling away from the family turns me off.

“I have got a few things going on, but I have always been a snooker player.

“It will be hard giving it up when it does come around, I don’t know when.

“You die twice as a professional sports person, once when you retire, and once when they put you six feet under.”