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Sporting Flashback: Lurgan man who ruled the snooker table

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Compatriots: Alex Higgins and referee Len Ganley

Compatriots: Alex Higgins and referee Len Ganley

Shake on it: Len Ganley with David Tayor (left) and Tony Knowles in 1982

Shake on it: Len Ganley with David Tayor (left) and Tony Knowles in 1982

Compatriots: Alex Higgins and referee Len Ganley

For every Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry, snooker also boasted its household names behind the scenes who left their own indelible mark upon the sport.

One of those was late Lurgan man Len Ganley.

Immortalised in song by the band 'Half Man Half Biscuit', and star of a television advert for Carling Black Label, Ganley transcended his role as a snooker referee to become a cult figure in the game.

Ganley's broad-legged, barrel-chested stance and no-nonsense demeanour became instantly recognisable elements of a popular era in which he officiated in four world finals.

A solid enough player, Ganley was steered towards refereeing in 1979 on the advice of Ray Reardon, who had been impressed by the way he managed the crowd during an exhibition match.

'The Len Ganley Stance' included the lyrics: "Shine your shoes and head for the Crucible, brush the baize and keep the crowd in check. Everybody's doing the Len Ganley Stance."

Upon his death in 2011, Ganley, whose role in the television advert had been to crush a cue ball to dust, was remembered by Steve Davis, who said: "Len did a very good job of being a referee and a personality at the same time."

A former bus driver, milkman and chimney sweep, the County Armagh man graduated to play a part in some of the Crucible's seminal moments, including working overtime during Ronnie O'Sullivan's fastest maximum break against Mick Price in 1997.

Ganley was renowned within the game for contributing an enormous amount to charity, for which he was awarded an MBE in 1994.

Belfast Telegraph