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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: December 13, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

    Emotions run high in heat of battle

    Paul Gallagher

    Every now and again sport throws up scenes of raw emotion. The notion of raw emotion and snooker may not be easy bedfellows but there was no hiding place for the chief protagonists at the conclusion of the recent UK Championship.

    John Higgins, back on the baize after his six month ban for bringing the game into disrepute, staged a remarkable comeback to deny Mark Williams, who at one stage looked nailed on to win the sport’s second biggest title.

    Trailing the Welshman 7-2, then 9-5, before winning 10-9, the pair were almost lost for words when John Parrott tried to get a line out of them at the presentation in Telford. 

    The runner-up was approached first. “What can you take away from this?” came the question. “Not much to be honest,” said a dejected Williams almost choking on his Welsh words. “Will this disappointment linger?” was Parrott’s alternative approach. “Nothing three pints of Boddington’s won’t sort out,” replied Williams, who clearly just wanted to exit, stage left, and presumably get started on those pints.

    An emotional UK Championship winner John Higgins with his wife Denise and runner-up Mark Williams in Telford

    An emotional UK Championship winner John Higgins with his wife Denise and runner-up Mark Williams in Telford

    Next up was Higgins, who looked dead and buried in the final but showed great tenacity to get over the line. The Wizard of Wishaw kept it together at the start of the interview, claiming: “This is my finest hour on the table. It means everything to be back playing and winning. Obviously it means a great deal to my family as well, I just never gave up.”

    And then it hit home. Parrott asked if there was someone special watching up in Scotland and that’s when the winner welled up and just about managed to get the words out “My dad” referring to John senior, who is losing his five-year battle with cancer. 

    It’s easy to be flippant about sport, especially when spoilt prima donnas in the likes of the Premier League illustrate all that is rancid in certain quarters of professional sport. No pride, no loyalty, simply out for number one.

    However, after an action-packed sports Sunday, glued to wall-to-wall Heineken Cup action, followed by some light viewing of the Shark Shootout in Florida, yours truly stumbled across the snooker for the final sporting act of the weekend.

    With Higgins and Williams beating balls and caressing cues around a defined piece of green felt, the climax of the UK final, surprisingly, was truly absorbing. It’s rare to get sucked into the conclusion of a snooker match these days, but this one was impossible to ignore as the outcome ebbed and flowed right to the end.

    It was clear how much both players wanted this one and, no matter how professional, neither could contain their true emotions. Disappointment and relief were on display in equal measure.

    There are times when sport makes the hairs stand on the back of the neck. Take All-Ireland final day at Croke Park, Munster/Leinster doing it in the Heineken Cup or Ireland’s Six Nations Grand Slam to name but a few.

    Darren Clarke with tears in his eyes on the final day of the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K-Club (Photograph: Tom Honan/Inpho)

    Darren Clarke with tears in his eyes on the final day of the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K-Club (Photograph: Tom Honan/Inpho)

    For one with a bias towards the fairways, Graeme McDowell’s heroics in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, and previously at Pebble Beach to win the US Open, struck a chord. So too, for that matter, did Darren Clarke’s highly charged performance at the 2006 Ryder Cup or Pádraig Harrington’s first British Open win at Carnoustie.

    All truly special moments where the individual – or team – somehow manages to conjure the strength to get the job done. Only in sport can this unique and raw emotion be felt. The genuine, standout moments are rare, but there was undoubtedly a little piece of it on show in Telford last Sunday night.

    • Ger W says:

      It was a great match alright. It’s often frustrating watching Williams play, even more frustrating than watching o’sullivan (at least he produces some unique magic) Williams just seems so uninterested when he plays. Don’t get me wrong great player, one of the greatest, but it often looks like a real bother for him to be there. Higgns, well the whole ‘bribe’ thing was a bit difficult to figure out, i mean how he got himself into the situation in the first place, you’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt, because he seems like a decent guy, but it is a cloud hanging over him, and i think it will take more than this victory to fully redeem him. It’s interesting that eurosport weren’t covering the tournament, they’ve been all over snooker in recent years.

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