In the 1980s the game of Snooker reached the peak of its popularity. Families everywhere gathered around their television sets to watch the superstars of the game, who became household names, jousting above the green blaize with their immaculately polished snooker cues. How could anyone that stayed up past midnight to watch Dennis Taylor defeat Steve Davis in the famous ‘Black Ball Final’ of 1985 ever forget it? Over the coming months you can relive many magic moments as Seán Creedon recalls the thrills those charismatic characters brought us. Snooker loopy nuts were we!
Number one: Patsy Fagan
Like many Irish people in the fifties and sixties Patsy Fagan took the emigrant boat to England. He went to London in 1968, but it wasn’t as the old song said ‘digging for gold in the streets’, but to become a professional snooker player.
Patsy was the second eldest of a family of 13 children from Dun Laoghaire. His father Patrick worked as a postman and coincidentally when he took a break from snooker many years later, Patsy ended up sorting and delivering letters for the Royal Mail. His mother Esther (Doyle) was busy rearing her children and when they were all reared she worked in Carroll’s cigarette factory off Kill Avenue in Dun Laoghaire.
Fagan was born on January 15, 1951. He started playing snooker at the age of 12 in Frank Furlong’s snooker hall, opposite Findlaters in Dun Laoghaire.
‘‘There was another club in Dun Laoghaire called the Premier down near St Michael’s Hospital, but I mainly went to Frank’s. I was fairly good player by the time I was 17, but I read about professional snooker players I had heard about in England like John Spencer and wanted to see if I could make the grade. Another lad named Joe Rogerson came over with me, but he didn’t like it and went home after a few months.
‘‘I didn’t have any relations to stay with in London, I just got digs. I knew a few lads from the snooker and got a bit of work on Oxford Street and played snooker at every opportunity. I played a few games for money in the early days and I remember playing with another Dublin lad called Con Dunne at the Chiswick Memorial Club when I was in my twenties.
‘‘Then I moved to the Ron Gross Snooker Centre in Neasden which was a very well known club at that time. All the top players like Cliff Thornburn, Alex Higgins, Willie Thorne, John Virgo used to play there and later on Jimmy White, Tony Meo, Neal Foulds and another Dubliner Paul Ennis. I was doing well as an amateur, but it was difficult in the seventies to make the switch to professional.’’