Snooker ace Ken Doherty delighted at Belfast line-up
Published 01/06/2013 | 08:00
Former World champion Ken Doherty is convinced Northern Ireland snooker fans will see the most talented line-up of players ever to perform here when the Legends Tour comes to Belfast next week.
Doherty will be playing at the Waterfront Hall himself on Tuesday night, but it is the gifted trio of Ronnie O'Sullivan, Stephen Hendry and Jimmy White that the modest Irish star says the Ulster public will be excited by.
Doherty believes that outside of his late hero, Alex Higgins, O'Sullivan, Hendry and White are the three most talented players to pick up a cue.
"I always said that Alex was the most charismatic snooker player but O'Sullivan is the most naturally gifted to ever play the game. Hendry, with his incredible record, is seen by many as the greatest and it's hard to argue with that while Jimmy has always been the people's champion and one of the most popular and entertaining players of all time," said Doherty.
"You couldn't have asked for three better players to be coming to Belfast. It's a dream for me to be playing with these lads, especially in a place like the Waterfront.
"I can't wait. I've had some great nights at the Waterfront. There is always a fantastic atmosphere.
"I remember taking the World Championship trophy there in 1997 for a testimonial night for Alex Higgins and the atmosphere was electric so I'm looking forward to it again.
"It is great watching snooker on TV, but it is far more exciting watching it live so anyone coming to the Waterfront will be entertained.
"When you are actually there in the venue it's completely different. Legends Snooker is made for live audiences because as well as being competitive you see a different side to the players that you wouldn't see on TV. There's more inter-action with the crowd. I would urge anyone to go along and watch it and experience it for themselves."
While Hendry, White and Doherty (pictured) will have their fans in attendance on Tuesday night, most of the focus will be on 'Rocket' Ronnie O'Sullivan, fresh from his extraordinary world championship victory.
O'Sullivan has now won five world titles, but the 2013 crown will surely go down as his best as he came out of retirement, having hardly played any competitive frames for a year, to blitz the opposition with his brand of attractive snooker.
"I don't think we will ever witness anything like that again in our sport," said Doherty.
"For someone to take a whole year out and not really play a competitive match and to turn up at the world championships and go through the field comparatively easily was an incredible feat.
"I don't think anyone could have done that apart from him and that probably does put him down as the best player of all.
"He was pushed a little bit in a few rounds but any time anyone got close to him he always had an extra couple of gears. It was so good to watch and amazing to see. He is so gifted and when his head is right there is nobody to touch him.
"With Ronnie coming to Belfast as a world champion I'm sure that will create a buzz."
While O'Sullivan makes more comebacks than Frank Sinatra, Doherty, aged 43 and becoming an accomplished TV pundit, insists he will continue playing on the circuit for as long as he enjoys it.
He says: "I think the way snooker is now with all the worldwide tournaments is great. Barry Hearn came in when the sport was suffering some dark times and he has put on a lot more tournaments which is what he said he'd do. He has taken our game around the world to new countries and gained sponsorship and there is now more of an opportunity for players to earn a living from it."