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Norm joins the cue for Belfast snooker bonanza

By Robert Jones

Northern Ireland football legend Norman Whiteside is thrilled that snooker’s top stars will be back in the country for a major tournament next month after an eight-year absence.

Former Manchester United star Whiteside is a huge snooker fan and was in the crowd for the final of the recent English Open.

The 51-year-old is now looking ahead to the second event in the new Home Nations series, the Northern Ireland Open, which will run from November 14 to 20 at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast.

Featuring 128 leading players, including Ronnie O’Sullivan and home favourite Mark Allen, the tournament starts off with eight tables in the main arena, giving fans the chance to see many of their heroes in action.

The eventual champion will receive the Alex Higgins Trophy and a cheque for £70,000. English Open champion Liang Wenbo will earn an extra £1million bonus if he can win the last three Home Nations events.

Whiteside said: “Belfast has come on leaps and bounds over the past decade and it’s a great destination for visitors and tourists. There are more big sporting events happening now in Belfast and top-class snooker will be very welcome. I’m really looking forward to it. To have Alex Higgins’ name attached to the trophy is fantastic because he was so popular in Northern Ireland and was one of our great entertainers.”

Whiteside’s career highlights include scoring the winning goal for Manchester United in the 1985 FA Cup final and displacing Brazilian legend Pelé as the youngest player ever to appear at a World Cup when he started for Northern Ireland at the age of 17 at Spain ‘82.

These days, along with working in the hospitality department at Old Trafford, he loves playing and watching snooker and has a weekly game with former Northern Ireland team-mate Sammy McIlroy.

“I always had a passion for snooker,” added Whiteside, whose top break is 60. “I used to play in a lot of charity days and pro-ams and had games against the likes of Alex Higgins, Stephen Hendry and Tony Knowles. I can sit and watch it on TV all day. The top players make it look so easy, it’s phenomenal how good they are.”

Tickets for the Northern Ireland Open are on sale now, starting at £10... to book, call 0844 847 2455 or visit

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