Ken Doherty took part in a promotional day for the Northern Ireland Trophy with his good friend Joe Swail in Belfast yesterday.
Ken was a perfect choice and not just because this is an Irish tournament.
He is, and always has been, one of the best ambassadors snooker could ask for.
I’ve interviewed Ken many times after he’s lost a match, sometimes when he’s lost in frustrating circumstances to a player he knows he should have beaten.
He has never been anything less than professional and courteous, answering every question properly and never once spitting his dummy out.
His 1997 world title triumph was a surprise in as much as he beat Stephen Hendry in the final but it was also extremely popular, not least back home in Ireland where tens of thousands turned out to salute him as he paraded the trophy in Dublin.
He has been in two world finals since. To get to the last one in 2003, he won one of the best matches I’ve ever seen to come from 15-9 down and beat the late Paul Hunter 17-16.
What was particularly memorable was the sportsmanship between the two players afterwards. I know Ken would have been as gracious as Paul was had the result been reversed.
Two years ago he was ranked second in the world, his highest ever position. Last season he was fourth but he heads into the new campaign 18th, out of the top 16 for the first time in 15 years.
He doesn’t complain about this or blame anything other than his own results. He will simply turn up at the qualifiers in those events where he isn’t starting out at the final venue and play.
Ken is as down to earth as anyone on the circuit but he is the only snooker player I know of with an interest in renaissance art, in particular the painter Caravaggio.
He married an Australian psychiatrist, Dr. Sarah Prasad, and the couple have a young son, Christian.
I have no doubt that Ken will move into the media and commentary in the next year or two. His genial manner is perfect for it.
But I hope he continues to play for the foreseeable future and would personally be very happy to see him return to the top 16.
Snooker needs players who demonstrate a commitment to their sport beyond merely turning up and pocketing the money.
Ken Doherty still has much to give to a sport he has done more than most to promote during his 18 years on the circuit.