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Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Trip down memory lane at Goffs

Isn't it great that some things just don't change! This was may thought as I  walked past the beautifully manicured hedges,through the iron gates,up the pathway between the two water features and looked once more at the statue of champion racehorse Be My Guest..This is Goffs a place where the worlds finest thoroughbreds change hands every year for millions of euro.This weekend it played host to the Snooker Legends tour but for one week every March between 1978 and 2000  the place belonged to the thoroughbreds of the snooker world as the sports finest battled it out for the B&H Irish Masters title.

As I said in my introduction blog I was lucky enough to live quite close the the venue and attend many great matches there over the years so I will now share some of my favourite memories with you..

I'll start with the very first snooker match I ever saw live. The year was 1987 and Willie Thorne had already booked his place in the final that afternoon as myself and my Dad made the journey out for the second semi final between Terry Griffiths and my idol Steve Davis.I remember been excited the whole week leading up to this and.I was not to be disappointed as sitting on my fathers shoulders so I could see over the crowd (we had standing tickets and i was only 8) I saw Steve record an easy 6-2 victory over the Welshman.He would go on to beat Thorne 9-1 in the final and win the third of what would be a total of eight Irish Masters titles.It's.I suppose it's little wonder then that even today he states that this was his favourite venue.

The second memory I'd like to share again features Steve (I did see him play a lot) in a 1996 semi final against Irelands own Ken Doherty .The match was to go to Steve 6-4 but what made it stand out in my mind was the sheer quality of matchplay snooker on show..Of the 10 frames played I think 5 were won with big breaks but the other 5 were hard fought with some of the best safety play I've ever seen.Of course Davis has had few if any equals in the tactical department but Ken was never a slouch in that area either so each exchange was keenly fought.I don't think I've ever seen the table been tapped as many times in any match since. When the match was over and we were leaving I recall one of the stewards passing a comment about how bored he was and thinking if you didn't enjoy that then snookers not for you!

Next we move on to the 1997 tournament and my first introduction to Ronnie O Sullivan and John Higgins.Both these great players were now beginning to make an impact in the game and faced each other in the quarter finals I made a solo trek to the venue and managed to get seat B1 which was so close to the action that when Higgins returned to his chair and didn't sit down I couldn't see the table. I obviously had seen Ronnie  play on tv many times before this but until you have actually seen him in the flesh it's hard to fully appreciate his genius.On this day he was on top form and seeing him at such close quarters effortlessly knock in back to back centuries one of which was a total clearance will long live in my memory.He didn't so much seem to walk around the table as glide.Higgins for his part played well but ronnie saw out the match 6-4.

The following year these two were to meet again this time in the semi final.I was in attendance again as they served up another classic .The beauty of Goffs was  as well as seating for nearly a thousand they could sell many more tickets for the two balcony areas that surrounded the arena. For this match we went to the top level which left us with an almost overhead view of proceedings.From here you could truly appreciate the close control and skill of these two greats.At one stage I swear O Sullivan made a 70odd without the cueball touching a cushion.Ronnie was again to be the victor winning  6-4.

The other thing I will always remember from this venue is the unique atmosphere.a capacity crowd used to create.This was never more evident then when a Irish player entered the arena and I have heard the roof nearly been lifted from the place as the likes of Alex Higgins , Dennis Taylor, Fergal O Brien and Ken Doherty came out to do battle.For anyone who went to the old Wembley Conference Centre when Jimmy White was playing I imagine they will have witnessed something similar.

I could write much more about the many other great matches and players I had the pleasure of seeing during these years including Stephen Hendry at his peak (a fact I didn't fully appreciate at the time) as well as the strange fact that on in the three matches I saw Jimmy playing he lost all 6-5 but i would be writing all night.Suffice it to was this going to see these matches as a child that cemented my already growing love for the sport.Attending the "Legends" the other night and as I looked around the arena they all came back to me .Nothing would please me more then to see a full tournament return there in the near future.


1 comment:

  1. Brilliant article. Thanks for sharing your strong, vivid memories. I especially liked the rich detail which made me feel just a bit as if I was there.

    I will now have to try and find some of those matches on YouTube.

    Tap. Tap. Tap. (My cue butt on the floor.)