Tuesday 17 January 2017

'Hurricane' passing a huge loss

Frank Malley

Published 25/07/2010 | 05:00

Sobriquets in sport can so often be cliches but in the case of Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins it could not have been more appropriate.

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Higgins, who has died at the age of 61, played his snooker and led his life at reckless speed. At times thrilling and wonderfully entertaining. At others hopelessly destructive.

A flawed genius, you might say, like George Best, that other Belfast boy who did not know the meaning of moderation and drank himself to an early grave.

Higgins had his problems with the drink too. A man who got into fights too copious to list and who resented officialdom.

He was fined £12,000 and banned from five tournaments for butting a referee at the UK championship in 1986. At the 1990 world championship he punched tournament official Colin Randle, an incident which came soon after he had threatened to have 1985 world champion Dennis Taylor "shot".

That was the demonic side of Higgins. But many hooked on TV snooker during the late 1970s and 1980s will also remember why the sport became the attraction which drew 18.5million viewers when Taylor beat Steve Davis on the final black in that 1985 final.

Much of it was down to Higgins. Flamboyant, irreverent, spontaneous, dynamic. He chain-smoked his way around the table which doubtless contributed to the throat cancer he developed 10 years ago.

By then the good days were long consigned to history. The 1972 world championship final he won at his first attempt at the age of 25 was a distant memory. So was the the 1982 final in which he beat Reardon 18-15.

His snooker legacy can be gauged by all the players who live to pot who followed him. Men such as Jimmy White, Ken Doherty and Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Higgins went on to amass a £3m fortune, yet ended up hustling for the next meal in sheltered housing on Belfast's Donegall Road. A man whose meteoric rise matched his spectacular fall.

Truly, 'Hurricane' could not have been more apt.

Sunday Independent

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