Champ's anguish at rift with dad

SOUTH Yorkshire snooker ace Shaun Murphy today revealed he has been hiding a secret heartache.

Soon after winning the 2005 World Championship in Sheffield, the Rotherham cueman had a bitter row with his dad Tony - and the pair have not spoken for the last 18 months.

But the 24-year-old devout born-again Christian, who prays in his dressing room before matches, said he is willing to bury the hatchet with his father - if he is ready to apologise.

The emotional world number four would not elaborate on what the row was about.

But he revealed: "I had to stand up for myself because what he said was wrong. As a husband, as a person, I just wasn't going to take it."

Shaun, who met wife Clare in a Christian internet chatroom, added: "It's very upsetting, a very sad situation. We've not spoken for 18 months. He didn't come to the Crucible last year to watch me as defending champion and won't be coming this year.

"He's been such an important person in my life, he should have been by my side.

"The ball is in his court, but I miss him and I love him. He's my dad." Tony was the driving force behind Shaun's early success as he won a host of junior titles. But a few months after Shaun won the World Championship Tony suffered a heart attack.

And Shaun, who started today's play at The Crucible lagging 11-5 behind Matthew Stevens, believes that contributed to some of the "upsetting" things he said to him in an angry phone call the last time the pair spoke.

"The situation came to a head after my dad's heart attack. I think he let things get the better of him," added Shaun. "He owes me an apology - unless he rings me to say sorry I don't know when we'll speak. He should be the proud dad who comes with me when I'm on Question of Sport and to celebrate with me when I won the Malta Cup this season.

"My dad was the person who drove me everywhere when I was a kid and who made lots of sacrifices so I could be where I am today."

Tony used to be a director of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association Board, and also held a salaried position with World Snooker Ltd.

But after falling ill and taking sick leave for a few months, he resigned from both positions and is now a notable absentee on the snooker circuit.

"All he has to do is pick up the phone and apologise," said Shaun. "There's not a day goes by when I don't think about it and wonder what's going to happen.

"It would be nice we can patch things up, but he's going to having to apologise for what he said."

The Star tried to speak to Tony but he couldn't be contacted.

Snooker latest, click here.