Looking through twitter today I see a number of tributes to mark the second anniversary of the passing of Alex Higgins.In those two years as in his lifetime plenty has been written and said about Alex the man and player,It seems no matter who you are if you had anything to do with the snooker you have a story about "The Huricance".I am no exception to this so here is mine.
It was the summer of 2005 and having just come under new management a snooker club in a neighbouring town to me announced they were celebrating this with an exhibition featuring Alex. Although I will admit to never having been his biggest fan in his heyday i couldn't miss an opportunity to see him in the flesh again.
When I arrived at the venue I couldn't help but notice the large range of ages of those in attendance.Sure there were people my age and older who came to see the man who lit up their tv screen in the 70's and 80's in the hope of seeing a glimpse these glory days but there were also a number of teenagers who would have been to young to have even witnessed his last great hurrah in the 1989 Irish Masters.These kids I concluded were there to see if this "Hurricane" was all they'd been told about.
The scheduled start time came and went as the crowd grew and eventually about half an hour late the owner announced "THE TWO TIME WORLD SNOOKER CHAMPION ALEX HURRICANE HIGGINS".The crowd clapped and cheered as Alex walked in sporting a rather stylish matching purple cravat and hat.combination.Yes he looked thin and it was obvious he had gone through the mill with his health but he was still fairly spritely and certainly looked better then he had in the recent pictures the tabloids had delighted in showing in the month's previous.
The format of the exhibition itself had Alex play a series of frames against local players and sports stars including Olympic gold medal winning boxer Michael Carruth.and turned into a snapshot of his whole career as at different stages he was funny.charming, angry,abusive,.insulting and brilliant on a table that really was awfully slow.
The evening finished with a raffle.which had a top prize of a signed poster,signed t shirt a photograph with him and the opportunity to chat with him.When the ticket was pulled out the winner was me.I could hardly believe my luck as I shook hands with Alex and posed for the picture.We then started to chat and maybe due to the fact the pressure to perform was now gone he seemed relaxed as we talked about everything from the state of the table(I had played a final on it the week previous and found the cloth like a carpet) to the state of the sport at the time,to the Irish Masters at Goffs and finally horse racing.I couldn't believe what was happening as all that was going through my head was for all the bad stories of this man I was going to have a positive.one to tell.
After about 15 minutes the owner anxious to wrap the evening up came over to us and we shook hands again and wished each other well.I turned away and started to chat with some of the kids who were waiting to hear what we had talked about.No sooner had I started to relay my story when I heard a noise behind me and turned around to see Alex grabbing to owner by the lapels and shoving him against the table in a row over the fee.I could hardly believe my eyes.
This was my one and only meeting with "The Hurricane" and like with everyone else who came into contact with him it was certainly memorable. The signed poster still has pride of place on my wall and I think tonight I'll pay tribute to the great man by putting on Youtube and watching again that miracle clearance against Jimmy in 1982 World Championships.Rest In Peace Hurricane.