Matt Doherty was a special guest at the Alexandra Palace on Monday for the Ronnie O’Sullivan and Luca Brecel encounter.
Based in London as a Premier League defender with Tottenham Hotspur, Doherty took the opportunity to see some of the best snooker players in the world in action.
And the the 30 year-old Irishman was in awe of the quality on display at the prestigious invitational in the English capital city.
“I think it’s incredible. Look at the setup, look at the crowd,” Doherty told Rob Walker for the World Snooker Tour.
“A full house, the excitement is there obviously when Ronnie is playing – he’s the best to ever to do it.”
“It’s obviously a privilege to come and watch someone at their profession be the best ever. I’m very happy to be here.”
“I’m a fan of a lot of sports – there are other sports that would probably rank a little bit higher – but I’ve always kept a keen eye on this sport and the World Championships.
“Ken Doherty is an Irishman with the same name – no relation – but him being Irish, I was always drawn to snooker from him.
“I didn’t watch it live (Ken’s 1997 World Championship success). I was five years old at the time, but we all know about Ken and his expertise at snooker.
“My friend George, who is hear with me today, and I tried to play as much as possible. I said to him before that the pros make the table look so small.
“When I’m playing it’s huge. But it’s fun, it’s enjoyable, and I’d much rather play that than pool.
“If I could find a space and the kids could allow me to knock down a play room and put a snooker table in there, I’d absolutely love to have one.
“I guess it’s one of those things – a bit like darts – the more you play it, the more you practice like many things, you start to pick it up a little better.
“But I know the skill level of these snooker players, the way they control the cue ball, is one of the most skillful things you can see.”
As he was in to enjoy world number one O’Sullivan, Doherty, capped 33 times for the Republic of Ireland, was asked who the Rocket might be comparable to in terms of football.
“Stephen Hendry even says that Ronnie is the best of all time. I don’t think you’d hear (Cristiano) Ronaldo saying (Lionel) Messi is the best.”
“For me Ronnie would be comparable to Messi, and maybe Stephen would be Ronaldo – two of the best ever.”
Harnessing his Messi magic, Ronnie O’Sullivan beat Luca Brecel with the aid of two century breaks to reach the quarter-finals of the Masters.
The seven-time champion will next face Mark Williams on Thursday with a place in the last four at stake.