Ken Doherty turns 40 today.

He remains the only player to win the world title at junior, amateur and professional level and through two decades at the top has cemented his place in snooker’s pantheon of legends.

Like many of his age, Ken got into snooker through watching Pot Black on the BBC but his ambition to be a pro was formed when he sat, transfixed, as Alex Higgins won his second world title in 1982.

A successful junior career in Ireland was followed by a move to Ilford where he lived and practised for several years and played on the thriving pro-am circuit.

After winning the world under 21 and amateur crowns, Doherty turned professional in 1990.

In his first season he qualified for the Crucible where he ran Steve Davis very close before going down 10-8.

His first ranking final came at the 1992 Grand Prix and his first title at the 1993 Welsh Open.

He has won six ranking tournaments in total having reached 17 finals, 35 semi-finals and 61 quarter-finals.

Of course, his greatest success came at the 1997 World Championship when he ended Stephen Hendry’s run of five successive Crucible triumphs with an 18-12 defeat.

A year later he reached the final again but was beaten 18-12 by John Higgins.

In many ways, his best performance came at the 2003 World Championship where he proved to be the tournament’s star if not its winner.

Doherty survived a series of last gasp victories, none more dramatic than his 17-16 semi-final defeat of Paul Hunter from 15-9 down.

He trailed Mark Williams 11-4 in the final, levelled at 11-11 but eventually lost their gripping encounter 18-16.

Afterwards he was just as he has always been in victory or defeat: a model of graciousness.

In a career of considerable success, he has had his disappointments, not least missing the final black of what would have been a 147 in the 2000 Masters final.

Perhaps Ken could have won more, but he played during an era in which Hendry, Higgins, Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan, to name but four, were all at their best.

He has slipped to 44th in the world rankings this season but his run to the quarter-finals in Shanghai suggests he is far from finished.

He’s often referred to as a great tactician – which he is – but he’s also one of snooker’s best break-builders, having made over 260 career centuries, placing him sixth on the all time list.

Ken is also one of the game’s finest ambassadors. I’ve seen him bitterly disappointed by defeat but he has always taken his media responsibilities seriously and done the best for the game.

The only slip was when he was asked to leave the Air Malta flight the morning after he beat John Higgins to win the Malta Cup.

However, this was a case of overzealous officialdom as Ken was not drunk but merely sticking up for John.

Not that anybody cared anyway. Ken is one of those players almost everyone warms to because they empathise with his genuine, friendly persona.

Away from the table, he is married to a psychiatrist and the couple have a young son. He supports Manchester United and has a wide range of interests, including the painter Caravaggio. Earlier this year, he joined the BBC commentary team.

Ken could stop playing tomorrow and would be regarded as an all time great but there are still goals to be accomplished.

He is one of the organisers of the new Six Reds World Championship and, at 40, is eligible for the World Seniors Championship, should one be organised.

If he won them both he will have been world champion in five separate events, a record that may never be bettered.


jamie brannon said...

I agree that he holds a great distinction of having won various World titles. Legend however is too much as he has only won one of snooker's majors. A very fine player, but he failed to deliver on the big stage as much as he probably should have.

celt147 said...

Happy birthday Ken :-)

Dave H said...

I've let that one through but it'll be the last one about Ronnie O'Sullivan. It's Ken Doherty's birthday, not his.

There are plenty of forums to argue on but this isn't one of them.

Dave H said...

In fact I've deleted them all

jamie brannon said...

My comment was still related to Ken though. I thought comment moderation was a good idea, but not if inoffensive comments are being deleted.

Dave H said...

It was deleted because I don't want yet another 'Ronnie's great, no he's not he's dreadful' ruck

jamie brannon said...

So basically if I say anything good about Ronnie then it will be deleted if someone responds to in a negative way. In my opinion it was a valid debate as it was reflecting on his antics at the weekend, so it was a fresh angle. My comment was perfectly mature, although I probably should not have risen to the bait.

Dave H said...

Perhaps people could just post about Ken Doherty on a post about Ken Doherty

It's not much to ask

Anonymous said...

yes what has Ken Turning 40 got to do with Ronnie ?


jamie brannon said...

Well yes and I have but another player was mentioned. We will have to agree to disagree on this I think my comment was acceptable and I have posted about other things not related to the topic and you have responded. Like with the BBC scheduling for instance. One thing I would like to ask is at the moment I'm not in a position to renew my subscription, so where in Birmingham is a good place to obtain the magazine.

Dave H said...

They have it in Smiths in the city centre, although it's usually hidden behind poker magazines

Anonymous said...

Ken is a great ambassador and I don't think he's finished yet as he has the game to adapt in the same way that Steve Davis does. I think last season will prove to be a blip as he gets used to the qualifiers again. He always seemed to love Prestatyn in his early career but that was at the snooker weeks which had a different kind of atmosphere. Like I say, I can see him climbing back up the ranks, snooker needs tactical players like Ken. I'll never forget 'his' year in which Mark Williams just pipped him at the post in Sheffield, mainly because I'd backed him at 16/1 to win the thing! But what a run for my money I got there.

Anonymous said...

Ken is a legend. First time I knew of him was the final of the Grand Prix against Jimmy White. Jimmy was in his prime and Ken was no push over. As soon as the match ended I proclaimed "Ken Doherty will be a future World Champion".

Alongside Ebdon he was in the next 2 behind the then big 4 and it's totally unfair to belittle his achievements because he played such a huge part in 90's snooker and beyond and was always capable of beating the best in the big tournaments which not many were. The fact he didn't win more is testament to just how good the big 4 really were.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

I wouldn't categorise Ken as a 'great' player. That word is used too loosely when it comes to Snooker players.

However, I would love to see on board the SPA. With Higgins/Davis already on-board, Ken wouldn't harm his reputation by adding his name to it.

Thanks, Joe

Anonymous said...

Ken has more titles in him yet.
He is a great player- how many have made 3 world finals and several masters and uk finals?

Claus Christensen said...

This has to be a great season for Ken and I would be delighted to seem him reach the top 16 and reach a final. Hendry vs. Doherty would be a great setup.

jamie brannon said...

It seems to me people are saying that because the big four were too good for him he is still great, but that to means he fell just short of greatness, which is nothing ashamed to be ashamed of. Incidentally I brought Ronnie up to compare with Ken to make that point.

G said...

Have to repost my comment here, my other one didn't get through (and I don't think I mentioned Ronnie!)??

Happy (belated!) Birthday to Ken, he is a great player and hopefully he'll show some form this season.

Everybody over here in Ireland was so proud of him when he won his World Championshiop, as evidenced by his hereo's return and open-top bus ride through Dublin City!

A great ambassador for Ireland and the sport.


PS Great piece Dave, just don't go tipping Doherty for any finals!!