Ken Doherty is the only man to win three world snooker championships at different brackets and the popular Dubliner is on his way to Letterkenny later this month to take part in a pool exhibition at Arena 7.
Doherty was both the world amateur and U-21 champion in 1989 and world professional champion eight years later having beaten Stephen Hendry 18-12 at the Crucible in Sheffield. These days he is still in the top 32 of the world rankings and also works for BBC. The 42-year-old, who also runs the Ken Doherty Snooker Academy in Terenure, is married to Sarah and together they have a four-year-old son called Christian.
“Winning the 1997 World Snooker Championship was the pinnacle of my career,” Doherty said last week. “I had grown up watching Alex Higgins winning the title in 1982 when I was young boy of 12. That made me want to become a professional snooker player and I was determined to emulate his achievement, so to do so in Sheffield was a dream come true.
“That same year, I managed to get into the Guinness Book of World Records when I cleared the six colours from their spots in 23.4 seconds on that television show Record Breakers. I wouldn’t be able do it again. I don’t even think Ronnie O’Sullivan would be able to manage it!”
Despite his achievements on the table, Doherty is almost as famous as a keen football supporter, most notably of Manchester United and Ireland, as well as following the fortunes of Dubin’s Gaelic footballers. When he was world champion 15 years ago he paraded the trophy at the three venues - Old Trafford, Lansdowne Road and Croke Park.
“It was actually Eric Cantona’s last match, against West Ham United, but nobody knew at the time he was going to retire,” Doherty recalled of his trip to Manchester in May 1997. “I was brought on a whole tour of the ground and brought out in the middle of the park at half-time. It was an amazing experience.
“I actually landed in beforehand and the whole team was eating. They don’t really take much heed of me. I was a little sheepish landing into this room on my own and there whole Manchester United squad are sitting down to dinner. They kept eating until Cantona came over to me and shook my hand and the rest followed. They were all delighted for me. It’s something I’ll always remember, being there on the pitch the day United picked up the Premiership.
“I was also in Dublin for an Ireland against Liechtenstein World Cup qualifier and at Croke Park when Dublin were playing Meath in the Leinster championship. I’ve around the houses really and it was joked at the time if there was an opening of an envelope I’d be the first man there with the cup!”
Doherty’s sharp wit and knowledge of sport is bound to raise a laugh or two when he arrives in Letterkenny the week after next. His surname is perhaps the most common in Donegal but the Ranelagh native has yet to discover if he has any connections to the county.
“I’m coming to Letterkenny to play some pool against the local talent,” he said. “I was in Buncrana the week before last and it’s nice to be getting the chance to get back to the land of the Dohertys! I have a few friends up there and Declan Doherty, who is no relation of mine, asked me could I come up and play some pool so I thought I would and really enjoyed my visit to Donegal. The first guy I played was Anthony Doherty, the second was Patrick Doherty and then James Doherty, or something like that!
“I’ve no immediate relations up there. I don’t know anyone called Doherty from Donegal that I’m related to but I’m sure if you went far enough down the line there would be some there - I’ll have to go on that television show Who do you think you are? I know the Gallagher clan have gatherings so we’ll have to try something similar.
“There’s not really any nicer places in Ireland than Donegal. It’s a lovely part of the world, especially when the weather is nice so I’m looking forward to getting back up to Letterkenny and Arena 7.”
Ken Doherty will be present in Arena 7, Ballyraine Retail Park in Letterkenny for the pool exhibition on Thursday, March 29. Tickets for the event are €10 and are available from Arena 7 on (074)9128853 and there will be a draw on the night with the winner getting the chance to take on the 1997 World Snooker Champion.