When I was a kid, Kerry, Liverpool and “Interesting” Steve Davis had a lot in common. I hated them. Always winning. I lived for the day of the little guy: like Offaly in ’82, Wimbledon in ’88, Joe Johnson in ’86, and the year before, Dennis Taylor.
Davis was boring to behold. The Nugget, bane of The Hurricane and The Whirlwind, a monotonous potting machine with a safety game that could tie Houdini in knots and out-grind Cliff Thorburn.
Last weekend his popularity came full circle; the boos that greeted Davis’s dominance in the eighties, turning to cheers as, at the age of 52, he knocked the 34-year-old holder, John Higgins, out of this year’s World Snooker Championship at the Crucible.
Self-deprecating and witty in his own way, Davis is due in Waterford’s Tower Hotel on May 17th as part of a series of re-enactments of his black ball final defeat by Taylor all of 25 years ago, having been 8-0 up. My mother says it’s the one thing she’ll never forgive herself for. Not allowing me to stay up for the final frames, it being a school night and all, confirmation prayers to be memorised for the next day. Or quite possibly I’d just been a pup.
This was the economic era of Maurice Pratt and his Yellow Pack cornflakes (almost as unforgivable) and we’d only one telly – the other one, which is still going, having been borrowed by someone who (allegedly) used hide it under a sheet in case the TV sponger inspector called – so I couldn’t even sneak down to the kitchen to watch the drama unfold. And there were no fancy phones or internet connections to keep tabs on the cue action.
In Britain alone 18.5 million viewers tuned in for the decisive moments as the ginger Londoner and the Ulster underdog with the comically-oversized, upside-down glasses (who, scarily, at 36 was younger than I am now when he lifted the title) ricocheted the very last ball around the green baise, racked with nerves.
Sensing the tension I was missing, I could swear I heard a woman roar “Go on ya good thing Dennis” in the sitting room some time well after midnight. The ISPCC have been summoned for less.