Two decades have passed since Ken Doherty was crowned snooker world champion but the fire in his belly hasn’t disappeared just yet.
Doherty prevailed at the Crucible in 1997 in snooker’s marathon event but it’s the sprint that’s dominating his immediate attention at the Snooker Shoot Out in Milton Keynes.
The Irishman has played in every edition of the one-frame bonanza and got his 2021 campaign under way in fine style with a 60-15 victory over amateur Jamie Curtis-Barrett.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the 51-year-old would wind down his playing activities but Doherty’s love for the game means the finishing line isn’t in sight.
“I’m at the twilight of my career and I’m just enjoying the last few years I have left on the tour,” Doherty told Eurosport.
“I’ve been training up at Ding Junhui’s academy in Sheffield. It’s nice to get back into the routine of practicing every day, against different guys, so it’s given me a bit of bite and hunger.
“I’m going to give a little bit more this year, see where it takes me, but most importantly just enjoy it.
“I love the game. I will miss it when I do eventually finish – but I’ll still be around doing the punditry. You’ll still have to listen to me!”
The Shoot Out is unlike any event in the snooker calendar, with players up against the shot clock and playing just one frame in a match.
One error is therefore costly but Doherty – who played more than 100 frames en route to his 1997 world title – loves the high-risk nature of the event.
This year’s competition is being played behind closed doors in Milton Keynes but the Darling of Dublin is still receiving the love from afar, back on the table for Saturday’s second round.
“You’re always pleased to win your first game. You miss the crowd but it’s still nerve-wracking with the shot clock ticking away,” he added.
“It’s a great tournament, I love playing in it and it’s good to get off to a good start.
“It’s been a great innovation to the tour, I get a lot of texts from people watching at home asking when I’m on so they love it as well.
“It’s not great for the old ticker, particularly at my age, but I really enjoy it.
“The most important thing is to not think too much about the shot-clock. It’s in the back of your mind but if you think about your time-frame and play the simple shot, don’t get too carried away and play the first thing that comes into your mind.”