During this year’s World Snooker Championship, we’ll be recalling some of the most memorable moments that took place at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
And so the story goes, that on the night of May 5th in 1997, the streets of Dublin City were so quiet that not one phone call was made to the central barracks – for everyone was at home or in the pub watching one of their own winning his first and only world title.
Unfortunately, a lot has changed since but, back in those days, snooker was as popular up and down the length and breadth of Ireland as most other sports.
The island had produced some great champions already, predominantly from the North with Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor famously lifting the trophies at the Crucible during the 1980s.
Yet, when Ken Doherty was emerging as a young talent at the turn of the decade, collecting amateur titles for fun before turning pro in 1990, it was clear that he was going to be the player who would predominantly shoulder Irish support in the coming years.
In 1997, it all came together perfectly for the then 27 year-old in Sheffield and, as the seventh seed, he quite comfortably reached his maiden final after victories against Mark Davis, Steve Davis – in which he won with a session to spare – John Higgins, and Alain Robidoux.
The only problem was that, in the final, Doherty was due to face the “King of the Crucible” himself, Stephen Hendry, who hadn’t lost a match at the venue since the quarter-finals in 1991.
Yet, living up to his nickname of “Crafty”, the Dubliner stamped his authority on the contest and, despite his esteemed opponent making all five centuries, Doherty romped away to an 18-12 triumph.
A year later, Doherty came close to becoming the first player ever to break the “Curse of the Crucible” but agonisingly fell short in the final against John Higgins, and again lost in the decider in 2003 against Mark Williams.
But nobody can take his 1997 victory away from him and his name will forever be etched on that trophy – in doing so, producing one of Ireland’s greatest sporting achievements.
This article has been updated and was originally published on May 5th, 2018.
Ken Doherty Dethrones King