Ken Doherty is determined to grace Crucible Theatre again before the end of his career, despite his tour survival being on the line at the upcoming Betfred World Championship qualifying.
Ireland’s 1997 World Champion Doherty needs to win at least one match at Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport to secure a place in the top 64 of the world rankings and retain his tour card.
Doherty last competed at snooker’s Theatre of Dreams in 2014, when he recorded a superb 10-5 defeat of Stuart Bingham in the opening round, before losing to Alan McManus in the last 16.
The 50-year-old cueman isn’t concerning himself with the stipulations for tour survival, but is instead setting his sights on a return to the sport’s grandest stage.
Doherty said: “I’d love to get to the Crucible and give the carpet another kiss one more time before I hang up my cue. That would be nice. We will wait and see what happens. There are lots of great players and lots of tough players. I’ve been playing alright without getting a lot of results.
“I’ve got a lot of great memories from there over the years. Of course winning it was the highlight, but I’ve had so many great matches at the Crucible. The finals and the semi-final with Paul Hunter stands out. The atmosphere and electricity, there is nothing like it. Walking through the curtain and down the stairs is just marvellous. It is what every player dreams of. For those that haven’t been there, that is what is in store for them. That is what they are hoping for. It is the holy grail. I am delighted I got my hands on the cup at least once. They can never rub your name off the trophy.
“I’m looking forward to it to be honest, I always look forward to the qualifiers. I know there are lots of nerves and tension, but it is a great atmosphere down there. Everybody is in the same boat. There is an extra significance for myself and a few more. All you can do is try to prepare as best you can.”
The qualifying event, which takes place from July 21st to 28th, brings unique mental burdens for players. It is a week where some players, like Doherty, are competing for tour survival, while others are chasing the dream of a Crucible debut. Doherty believes that in terms of intensity, there is no other event like it.
“It is very tough and particularly for that last match as well. There is a lot of pressure and a lot of tension. It is great though. I do enjoy it. I love that competitive spirit and instinct with the other guys. Of all the tournaments, I think that is the most pressurised. Everybody wants to get to the Crucible.
“This is my 30th year as a professional. It would be a milestone to qualify for sure. I remember Steve Davis beating John Higgins and getting to the quarter-finals a few years ago. To do that at his age was fantastic. It would be a great achievement. I’m not thinking about that yet though. There is a lot to do and a lot of preparation. I’m thinking about that first match when the draw comes out.”