Joe Swail last night confessed that Alex Higgins inspired him to take up snooker.
Swail, Ulster’s premier player in the post Higgins and Dennis Taylor era, grew up watching the Hurricane and was thrilled to see the Belfast legend take the world crown in 1982.
The 40-year-old, twice a World Championship semi-finalist, said: “I’ve been in a state of shock since hearing the news of Alex’s death.
“I was actually with Ken Doherty and Mark Selby when I received a text telling me about Alex’s passing and we were all just so shocked.
“Obviously he had been ill for quite a while, but he always seemed to pull through.
“The players are all devastated, particularly the ones who knew him personally and the ones who grew up watching him play.
“It’s only because of Alex that I started playing snooker. I turned pro 20 years ago and I’m still playing so it’s been a lifelong love affair with the sport and that’s all down to Alex.
“He was always great to watch, always controversial. He just appealed to people and drew so many of today’s players into the sport.
“The sport owes so much of it’s success to Alex.”