It’s twenty-five years since a young Dublin lad who honed his skills in a snooker club in Ranelagh walked off with the sport’s highest accolade when he won the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield. Here he shares the story of that success and his life with Seán Creedon.
Twenty-five years ago Ken Doherty was crowned Embassy World Snooker Champion at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield when he beat Stephen Hendry 18-12 in the final. The tournament started on April 19 and Doherty was crowned champion on the May Bank Holiday Monday, May 5.
The Dubliner, who was only 27 when he won, was only the third player from outside of the UK to win the title and the first player to win the World Championship at junior, amateur and professional level.
Anybody who is interested in snooker knows that Ken began his career at a snooker club in Ranelagh called Jason’s.
The family lived in a flat at the back of a sweet shop on Swan Place, off Morehampton Road in Donnybrook. Not everybody in D4 is well-off and Ken’s family struggled to find a house when the owners of the shop decided to sell.
The new owners made life difficult for the Dohertys and at one stage when a landlord called Mr. Cook read of their plight in the Dublin evening papers, he offered them accommodation upstairs in a house that he owned on Ranelagh Avenue. Ken remembers that the temporary accommodation wasn’t very posh and they had to use an outside toilet.
When Ken’s mother, Rose, heard that Dublin Corporation were building four new houses on Ranelagh Avenue, she wrote to every T.D. she knew. Eventually she got a letter from Charlie Haughey T.D., telling her that she had been allocated one of the new houses.
Ken’s brother, Seamus, was the first person to bring him to Jason’s in Ranelagh, where he would later be coached by former Irish international Paddy Miley. In the early days Ken had to stand on a biscuit tin to take a proper shot.
He became friendly with the Cosgraves who owned the club, and he used to empty the ashtrays and sweep the floors in the club. His reward was a few free games of snooker.
I asked Ken if the old saying, that a good snooker player means a mis-spent youth, is true?
‘‘Definitely not. My mother always kept an eye on my homework and said if my grades dropped, she would take the cue away from me, which was the worst punishment I could imagine.’’
Ken’s father Tony suffered a heart attack and died aged 58 in June, 1983. Rose worked as a cook in Trinity Hall in Dartry, where his father had also worked as a security man. When Ken’s father died, Rose took on extra cleaning jobs to feed the family of three boys and one girl. Ken’s eldest brother Seamus is eight years older than him, while Anthony is five years older. His sister, Rosemarie, is two years younger.