The Irishman has been granted with a fresh two-year professional ticket to compete on the Main Tour.
Ken Doherty was awarded an invitational tour card earlier this week, meaning that his status as a professional player is assured until 2022.
After finishing the interrupted 2019/20 campaign just outside the world’s top 64 in the official rankings in 68th position, Doherty was set to be relegated.
But as expected, the 50 year-old has been granted with special dispensation in appreciation for his achievements and services to the sport.
Doherty was a recipient of the backdoor ticket previously in 2017 when he ended that term below the cut-off point as well.
Starting from zero ranking points, the 1997 world champion managed to work his way back into the top 64 and earn a regular Main Tour card again, so the Dubliner will be hoping for a repeat performance this time around.
The invitational tour card was introduced several years ago and has also been utilised by Jimmy White and James Wattana in recent times.
Its existence divides opinion with many in support of the cause, but equally a lot of people believing that it’s inappropriate for these players to be taking away opportunities from others.
Yet, the reality is that it doesn’t really heavily influence how the remainder of the tour cards are awarded, with the usual number of places going to amateurs via avenues like Q School, the Challenge Tour, and the various international amateur tournaments.
The likes of Doherty and White still offer a lot to the sport in the form of marketing, as highlighted by the level of interest in their entertaining World Seniors Championship final clash from last weekend.
As long as they still want to participate professionally and, importantly, they can still play at a competitive level, the invitational tour cards shouldn’t really cause too much offence.
That being said, a disappointed Doherty missed out on glory on Sunday as he succumbed to the pressure at the Crucible, squandering a 4-0 lead in an eventual 5-4 final defeat to the “Whirlwind”.
Victory would have completed a remarkable and unique set of world titles, with Doherty also a former world amateur and world under-21 champion from his pre-pro days all the way back in 1989.
During 30 years as an elite-level player, Doherty has won six ranking titles and he reached a career-high of number two in the world rankings.
In fact, had he won his World Championship quarter-final match with Marco Fu in 2006 he would have ended that campaign as Ireland’s first world number one.
These days, Doherty is as well-known for his off-table roles as he is for his displays on the green baize.
A regular commentator and pundit on the BBC’s snooker coverage, the “Darlin’ of Dublin” has for a long time presented a radio sports programme on Sunshine106.8 with former rugby star Reggie Corrigan.
An avid poker player, he has featured in numerous high-profile card-game tournaments in the past too, including on the World Poker Tour.
Thankfully, Doherty won’t have to swap his cue for the World Series of Poker any time soon, with his membership on the more familiar snooker tour locked in for the time being.
Doherty, whose ranking points will reset to zero once more, will be competing alongside the likes of world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and world number one Judd Trump until the end of the 2021/22 season, at least.
With fellow veteran Fergal O’Brien surviving via the one-year list and up-and-coming teenager Aaron Hill gaining promotion through his standout success in the European Under-21 Championship, there will be three cueists representing the Republic of Ireland for the first time since 2018.
Not since Doherty in 2008 has there been an Irish player from south of the border represented in the top 16.
With Doherty and O’Brien’s immediate future secured, 18 year-old Hill will have experience to draw from as he attempts to put Irish snooker back on the map.
Featured photo credit: WSS