Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Our cue to mourn death of a legend

The death of Alex "Hurricane" Higgins at the weekend has brought to an end one of the more colourful stories from the world of snooker.

It was also immensely sad that the young man, who electrified the sport at which he so excelled, and who filled centre stage on so many occasions, died alone.

His prowess with the snooker cue was legendary, not only for his remarkable skill, but also for the swiftness with which he disposed of opponents of all kinds, including those of the highest class.

In this respect his title of "Hurricane" was richly deserved, but the speed of so many of his victories should not overshadow his enormous technical skill, and his temperament for the big occasion. His list of victories, including two world titles, will remain a testament to his outstanding ability.

His contemporaries, including fellow Ulsterman and world champion, Dennis Taylor, have rightly underlined their high regard for his technical abilities, but he also gave snooker something extra.

This was his ability to change the image of a sport which had previously been the preserve of also skilled but slightly staid gentlemen, into something that was more exciting and unpredictable.

He showed that the outsider with the common touch (some might say too common) could take his rightful place at the top table, and in doing so he paved the way for other snooker characters who in previous decades might not have fitted in.

Alex Higgins was an Ulster sporting hero, who swept the snooker world in an age when television made it accessible to millions of men and women of all ages, who would otherwise never have set foot in a snooker setting.

He was the idol of many, including players and supporters who genuinely appreciated and understood the sport, but his human frailties underlined his feet of clay.

His much-publicised brushes with authority and his battle with alcohol, as well as his domestic difficulties, cast long shadows over the limelight he helped to create, and which he enjoyed so much.

Indeed, Alex Higgins had much in common with George Best.

They were both Ulstermen with gigantic talents, albeit in very different sports, and to different degrees.

Unfortunately, however, they flew too close to the sun which powered their sporting success, and their careers ended in sadness despite their passing triumphs.

Higgins, like Best, will live on in popular affection, and in due course the authorities must consider a fitting memorial for him.

It may not be the naming of an airport, but "The Hurricane" has certainly provided a distinctive cue for a commemoration of his true sporting greatness.

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