Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Ronnie O'Sullivan's a Rocket but I'm loopy about him

Ronnie O'Sullivan celebrates beating Barry Hawkins of England to win the Betfair World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre on May 6, 2013 in Sheffield, England
Ronnie O'Sullivan celebrates beating Barry Hawkins of England to win the Betfair World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre on May 6, 2013 in Sheffield, England

Always knew I had a lot in common with Ronnie O'Sullivan. Yes, there is that shared God-given snooker talent (runner-up Ballymena and District Snooker League Division Three 2002) but now that I know he too is a huge fan of Homes Under The Hammer, we were clearly separated at birth.

Not only is it a programme that shows you what can be done if you have vast pots of cash and a team of builders, but also allows you to take part in my favourite game – guess the name of the estate agent.

The World Snooker Championships was a bit similar to this, for the life of you, you knew who Ronnie was playing but you just couldn't get his name.

And so it was that the Rocket against the man with no name or indeed nickname as the marathon event reached an unlikely climax in Sheffield.

The final means a few changes, Hazel Irvine puts on a frock, the lads get suited and booted, although given Ronnie's new-found love of renovating houses it would have been nice had they turned up in boiler suits with perhaps hard hats in different colours.

Against all odds, the final was still a contest going into the final day, and a special guest in the shape of Stephen Fry turned up in the mall that has been home for Hazel and co. for 17 days.

I was just relieved to see anyone at this stage as it followed a painful five minutes in the company of 'comedian' Andy Saltzman with his hilarious guide to the championship.

What do you mean Andy Who? You're bound to know him, he's one of those people you've never heard of that usually appear when Channel Four do the 'Top 100 Natural Disasters' or Five have 'The Best Maiming Accidents of the Year'. If I'd had a cue to hand at this stage I would have beaten myself to death.

A nervous laugh from Hazel followed this interlude and 'from one witty character to another' as she began to talk with Fry.

It turns out he's a massive snooker fan, although there was a sharp intake of breath when he started talking about screw. Ronnie had already been warned earlier in the week by Michaela 'not Strachan' Tabb, the stern lady ref, for making an obscene gesture with his cue.

So there was the bizarre sight of the host of QI being shown a trick shot by Steve 'Quite Interesting' Davis and their time together clearly rubbed off as later that evening, the Nugget came out a different man.

"Einstein said that time was an illusion." he began before a bizarre opening sequence with various former snooker players standing looking deep and meaningfully in wistful fashion into the camera while reading words very slowly and deliberately.

There was a sense of killing time with BBC2 having set aside the evening's schedule but with Ronnie only needing five frames so just in case you missed it, they put on Andy Saltzman's hilarious guide to the past 17 days on again.

They couldn't delay the inevitable much longer, an hour and a half later it was all over, Ronnie had pocketed his fifth world crown and enough dosh for a semi by the sea.

The danger though of winning so early is that it means his post-match interview is pre-watershed and this was a problem when Hazel asked him how he had coped.

"17 days is a long time. (I think, as Prof Davistein said that is merely an illusion). Everyone knows with me, I'm up and down like a whore's drawers," he hinted.

Cue much guffawing in the Crucible, a nervous giggle from Hazel and much consternation, but I've looked into it, apparently it's not obscene, it's just a piece of occasional furniture he's ordered for a property face-lift.

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