Ding’s 147 break a painful reminder of my missed black in 2000

by Gazette Reporter
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BY KEN DOHERTY

That missed shot also cost me £80,000 as there was a fancy Honda car in the hall for the winner worth that amount.

I was privileged to be present when Ding Junhui made a sublime 147 maximum break against Ronnie O’Sullivan at Alexandra Palace this week.

His magnificent display was his second 147 at the event and only  the fourth ever, even if he fell to a 6-3 defeat in the Masters first round to the Rocket.

The other two to rack up max breaks on television in this Triple Crown event were Kirk Stevens in 1984 and Marco Fu in 2015.

At the time in his match with O’Sullivan,  Ding was 4-0 down and the break boosted him to such an extent that he fought back to trail 4-3 before Ronnie kicked on to reach his 25th Masters quarter-final.

“I had a lot of chances at the start but I just made twenties and thirties and just messed up,” said Ding said on BBC Two. “I didn’t think I would play that well when we came back so to make a maximum is amazing.”

Speaking on BBC, he added: “For a long time I have not been feeling like that so I am happy enough. I saw the balls open and thought I could try a maximum because Ronnie was playing so well.”

Commented O’Sullivan: “Unbelievable 147 from Ding – I knew he’d make it from about the second or third red. What a magnificent player. He is a delight to watch.”

Ronnie now plays in the quarter final and chances are he will make it eight victories in this competition.

Personally, I was slightly envious of Ding’s performance because it reminded me of how close I came to joining that illustrious foursome back in 2000 when playing Matthew Stephens in the final of the Masters. I was one shot away from completing the magical 147 when I missed the black. That shot, which hit both jaws before bobbling back into play,  also cost me £80,000 as there was a fancy Honda car in the hall for the winner worth that amount.

My excuse for missing was that the car was a very bright yellow and I didn’t like the colour! Truth is I still feel a little sick in my stomach when I recall that moment of loss.

Nevertheless, I was thrilled to be present when Ding maxed out in the Ally Pally, which is a brilliant setting with sellout crowds of 2,500 at sessions. It makes me proud that I am part of a game that has found its feet again and is growing as a worldwide spectacle.

I’ve no doubt that a large part of that is due to the fact that Ronnie O’Sullivan came along, a bit like Luke Littler has done for darts in the past few weeks. He has brought interest from the general public to watch dart games the same way Alex Higgins and Ronnie drew ordinary folk to watch snooker over the past number of decades.

Ronnie, as I mentioned earlier, is now seeking his eighth title in this event and will be doing the same in the World Championships in May to go with the eight-timer he has already achieved in the UK championship.

His 30 years in the game have seen him reach 25 quarter-finals and 13 finals in this tournament, his first final was reached as a 17-year-old in 1992. Luke will hope to have half as much success in darts as Ronnie has had because that will be a heck of a career for the young lad who is due to turn 17 himself on January 21.

I watched my favourite club Manchester United in the FA cup tie against Wigan in the company of my snooker mates John Virgo and John Parrot and while I was relieved to see them get through, the reality is that they are a long way off where Alex Ferguson had them over a decade ago.

Yes, they have promising youngsters and yes they have a hefty injury list but they are still finding it hard to play a United style of football.

With an away draw against either Eastleigh or Newport in the next round, this could be their Mark Robins moment versus Nottingham Forest back in 1990 when an FA Cup win saved Fergie’s job and began the two and a half decades of glory for the club.

There have been many false dawns under the various managers since the great Scot vacated the managerial chair in 2013. Hopefully the good old days are not too far away but in the meantime the likes of City and Liverpool seems to be growing from strength to strength.

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