Walking With: Luca Brecel

Celebrity Snooker Fans – Shane Filan

Shane's flying without wings at the Crucible

Shane’s flying without wings at the Crucible

Westlife’s snooker-loving Shane Filan won’t budge from the arena when he comes to watch the final at the Crucible this year.

It will be his second trip to the home of snooker – he came for a few days in 2008 and saw the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Mark Selby and Peter Ebdon in action.

But he and his pals missed O’Sullivan’s amazing 147 maximum break, scored in his second round match against Mark Williams.

“We watched a few frames then we just nipped out of the arena to get a drink,” recalls Shane. “We were watching on one of the monitors and by the time we realised he was on for the 147 it was too late to get back in. We were absolutely gutted to miss it. This time we won’t be missing anything, we’ll stay in our seats!”

Shane will be at the Crucible for the final weekend of the tournament – the last day of the semi-finals and the whole of the final.

“I can’t wait,” he said. “It was great to come for a few days for the second round three years ago, but to be at the final will just be unbelievable. Last time we sat in the press seats just behind the TV cameras and we were so close to the action. We could have reached out and touched the back of the players’ cues while they were at the table, although I don’t think they would have liked that! We’re usually quite a noisy bunch but we’re always on our best behaviour in the arena.

“My friends and I are such big fans of snooker, so to be able to go backstage and chat to the players was brilliant. We went into Ronnie’s dressing room for half an hour after one of his matches and chatted to him, he was a top man. One of my mates is a huge Ronnie fan and he went pale in the face, he couldn’t believe we were there talking to him!

“All of the players were really friendly and it made for a great few days for us – I want to say thanks to everyone who was so good to us. The day after we were at the Crucible I had to fly to Australia, so I couldn’t enjoy the last night that much. But this time I have a bit of a break afterwards so I’ll be able to relax and have a drink.

“The arena is so quiet, but then once in a while it erupts, like when someone makes a century. I was struck by the intensity of the atmosphere, which is difficult to describe to anyone who hasn’t been there. The fans are so respectful to the players. It’s such a big tournament but most of it is played in almost complete silence.”

The BBC filmed Shane in action on one of the tables in the arena, swapping jobs with John Parrott who gave a brief rendition of ‘Uptown Girl.’

“I got to play on one of the match tables in the arena, which was cool,” said Shane. “And I sunk a nice black, so I made sure I got a video of that! John was a great guy but I’m not sure about his singing, maybe he should stick to what he does best. Put it this way, if I sang like that I’d be out of a job!”

Shane is a close friend of Dubliner Ken Doherty, and, along with virtually everyone in Ireland, watched avidly as Doherty won the world title in 1997.

“The reason I wanted to go and watch snooker in the first place was to see Ken play, so I’m gutted he didn’t make it through the qualifiers this time,” said Shane, who has played snooker regularly since his childhood. “He’s a good mate of mine and to see him play at the Crucible one day would be awesome.

“Last year he was playing an exhibition with Steve Davis in Sligo, near where I live. I was throwing a party that night for Halloween, so Ken and Steve came along after the exhibition. My friends and I ended up playing a game of ‘killer’ on my table with two of the best players of all time…it was one of those ‘Oh My God’ moments! The boys couldn’t believe it. I’ve got pictures from the night up on my wall now.”

Westlife released their 11th album, titled Gravity, late last year, and they have since been touring the UK and Ireland – playing two gigs at Sheffield Arena in March. Overall, they have sold a staggering 44 million records worldwide. Their first seven singles reached number one in the charts (a record) and in all they have had 14 number one singles – including Against All Odds, Unbreakable and You Raise Me Up. Only Elvis and the Beatles have had more.

The many days and hours of recording and touring tend to get in the way of what Shane really wants to do.

“I played a bit of snooker over Christmas but for the last few weeks I’ve not have a chance as we’ve been touring,” said Shane, who was a gifted rugby player in his youth and had trials for Ireland before opting for a career in music. ” I’ve made a pact with my friends that we’re going to try to play at least once a month for a good four or five hours solid. We played so much when we were kids, so we just don’t want to give it up even though we all have other commitments now.”

And he’ll need plenty of practice if he wants to improve his highest break of 47. “It’s 147 minus the one!” he laughed. “I’ve had a good few in the 40s but not gone past that yet. The table I’ve got at home is a professional one – it was used in the 2006 Masters final when John Higgins beat Ronnie. So the pockets are very tight….that’s my excuse anyway!”