On this day in snooker, Ken Doherty captured the fifth ranking title of his career at the 2001 Thailand Masters.
It was perfect timing, as the Dubliner completed the success on Ireland’s most famous holiday of St. Patrick’s Day.
Victory over Stephen Hendry in Bangkok, in what was a repeat of the World Championship final from four years previously, came when Doherty was producing some of the best snooker of his entire career.
The former world amateur champion had been ranked among the best players in the world for a decade and famously ended Hendry’s five-year dominance at the Crucible in 1997.
But while he was a regular presence at the business end of important events, the Irishman often came up just short when silverware was within reach.
In early 2001, that completely changed for a brief spell when he managed to claim back-to-back ranking titles.
The then 31 year-old first emerged with the Welsh Open crown in January, beating the likes of Hendry, Mark Williams, and Paul Hunter in Cardiff.
With confidence high, Doherty took his newfound form to Asia for the very next ranking tournament in Thailand.
After beating Jimmy White in the first round, Doherty overcame countryman Fergal O’Brien and Pakistan’s Shokat Ali to reach the last four.
Doherty then hammered John Parrott 5-1 in the semi-finals before orchestrating a similarly one-sided 9-3 victory against Hendry to secure the title.
It was a sweet turn of events, as five years earlier on the St. Patrick’s Day of 1996, Doherty was denied success in the Thailand Open by Alan McManus in a decider.
A month later and it looked as though a hat-trick was on the cards as he surged his way through the field again at the Scottish Open.
However, despite at one point leading 6-5, he would fall just short of the rare three-on-the-trot as Peter Ebdon pulled away in the final for a 9-7 triumph.
Still, it was a memorable spell for Ken Doherty, and 21 years later the popular Darlin’ of Dublin is still competing on the professional Main Tour.
Featured photo credit: WST
Given his standard in his heyday it has been a little puzzling how insignificant his record has been since he hit 40.
Happy St Patrick’s Day!
I’ve been following sport for around 30 years and Doherty would be one of the 10 or 20 greatest Irish sporting figures I’ve seen in that time. Others would include Roy Keane, Robbie Keane, Padraig Harrington, Katie Taylor, Brian O’Driscoll, Jonny Sexton, Paul O’Connell, Sonia O’Sullivan, Ruby Walsh, Rachael Blackmore and Steve Collins.