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John Laverty

There's no age barrier in professional snooker... and that's the problem

John Laverty

Nigel Bond

When I was a teenager playing for the Parochial Jokers in Ballymena, I dreamed about becoming a world snooker champion like Higgy.

Now I'm on the wrong side of 50... and still dreaming about my big moment at the Crucible Theatre.

Why not? Isn't Nigel Bond, a mere whipper-snapper at 54, still strutting his stuff on the green baize - even having the audacity to knock current world champion Judd Trump out of last month's UK Championship?

So all you really need is a three-piece suit, a decent cue and a little bit of skill.

Age is clearly no barrier in professional snooker.

In fact, unlike other sports, the older you get the more likely you are to succeed. Only one of the 13 professional tournaments so far this season has been won by a player under 30 - Chinese teenager Yan Bingtao.

Trump turned 30 in August last year, thus entering the same age bracket as the vast majority of the world's top 16. Why is this? It may have something to do with how far the game has fallen since the turn of the century.

The prize money was laughably poor, meaning there wasn't sufficient incentive for the Parochial Jokers of the modern era to aspire towards becoming another Higgy, Davis, Hendry, White or O'Sullivan.

I'm no fan of Barry Hearn, but I have to admit that, through sheer bloodymindedness and hard work, he has turned this old tanker around.

Prize money is now three times what it was, and although the likes of our own Mark Allen grumble about the number of tournaments, snooker has morphed into a genuine global sport.

But there's still a paucity of local talent coming through - which isn't the case in the Far East.

The Chinese love their snooker the way we loved it when The Hurricane and The Whirlwind were blowing hot. Those days are gone forever.

Belfast Telegraph