Ken Doherty (born 17 September 1969) is an Irish professional snooker player, commentator and radio presenter.
As an amateur, Doherty won the Irish Amateur Championship twice, the World Under-21 Amateur Championship and the World Amateur Championship. Having turned professional in 1990, Doherty has won a total of six ranking tournaments, including the 1997 World Snooker Championship in which he defeated Stephen Hendry, inflicting Hendry's first loss in a world final. This made him the first player, and so far one of only two (the other being Stuart Bingham) to have been world amateur and professional champion. The following year, he came very close to breaking the Crucible curse, reaching the 1998 final where he lost out to John Higgins. He reached a third final in 2003, in which he was defeated by Mark Williams. In other triple crown events, he is a three-time UK Championship runner-up and a two-time Masters runner-up.
An intelligent tactician and prolific break-builder, Doherty has compiled more than 300 century breaks in professional competition. Since 2009, he has combined his playing career with commentating and punditry work.
After two semi-finals in the 1991/92 season (his second as a professional), Doherty reached the final of the 1992 Grand Prix, narrowly losing 10–9 to Jimmy White. In the same event a year later, he lost 6–9 to Peter Ebdon. His first ranking title was the 1993 Welsh Open, enough to take him into the top 16 in the world, where he remained until the 2007/08 season. In the 1994 World Championship he reached the quarter-finals, his only run past the first round before 1997.
Doherty became only the third player from outside the United Kingdom (after Australian Horace Lindrum in 1952 and Canadian Cliff Thorburn in 1980) to win the World Championship when he beat Stephen Hendry 18–12 in the 1997 final. Ken also reached the World Championship final in 1998 (losing to John Higgins) and in 2003, losing narrowly to Mark Williams. The latter run was noted for some outstanding comebacks, including final-frame wins over Graeme Dott and Shaun Murphy, a 13–8 win over John Higgins in a match where Doherty raced ahead 10–0 but Higgins fought back to 10–7, and a semi-final fightback from 9–15 to beat Paul Hunter 17–16. In that championship he played more frames than anyone before or since. In the final, Williams led 11–4 but Doherty fought back to 12–12 and 16–16. In frame 33, Doherty missed the penultimate red with a clearance easily available. Williams won that crucial frame and the next to prevail 18–16.
He narrowly failed to achieve a maximum break when he missed a routine final black off its spot in the 15th frame of the 2000 Benson & Hedges Masters final against Matthew Stevens, which he eventually lost 10–8. This one pot would have seen him win an £80,000 sports car. However, his 140 break at least brought him the consolation of the £19,000 highest break prize.
Following an average start to the 2005/06 season, Doherty won the Malta Cup in February 2006, beating John Higgins in the final. Doherty had trailed 8–5 at one stage but managed a stirring comeback, winning four frames in a row. Doherty called the victory, which bridged a five-year gap, his "most important tournament win since the World Championship".
Doherty started brightly in the 2006 World Championship, winning his first match and defeated Barry Hawkins 10–1 and then he beat Matthew Stevens 13–8, playing superbly to win the last five frames. He was favourite in his quarter-final match against Marco Fu but lost 13–10. It was 8–8 as the final session started, but Doherty struggled despite winning a frame in which he required three snookers. Although he led 7–6, 8–7, 9–8 and 10–9, he could never quite take a decisive advantage to win the match. Doherty admitted afterwards that he "blew it" but that he still had "a couple more years" to come back and win the title. He ended the 2005/06 season as the world Number 2, his highest ranking ever.
He made a solid start to the 2006/07 snooker season by reaching the quarter-final at what is the closest thing to a home tournament for him, the Northern Ireland Trophy at Belfast's Waterfront Hall. He followed this up with a last-16 defeats at the Grand Prix in Aberdeen and the UK Championship in York. He reached the quarter-finals of the next two tournaments, the Masters and the Malta Cup. He lost in the first round of the World Championship and, although clearly disappointed, the Dubliner vowed to continue. He was provisional world Number 1 for most of 2006/07 but finished the season at Number 4.
In October 2006, he won the Irish Professional Championship for a second time (having previously captured the title in 1993), an invitational event, beating Michael Judge 9–4 in the final. A year later he defended his title with a resounding 9–2 victory over Fergal O'Brien. He followed this up a week later by becoming the first Irishman to win the Pot Black invitational tournament, beating Shaun Murphy 76–31 in the one-frame final.
Doherty did not start the 2007–08 season well, winning only one match during the first four ranking tournaments. However, he did reach the semi-finals of the Masters with victories over Mark Williams and Shaun Murphy, before losing to eventual champion Mark Selby. He then reached the final of the Malta Cup for a record fifth time, defeating John Higgins in the semi-finals, before losing to Murphy in the final. Unfortunately for Doherty, neither of these events are ranking events, meaning his performances did nothing to keep him in the Top 16 for 2008/09. Defeat to Liang Wenbo in the first round of the World Championship ensured that he dropped out of the Top 16 after 15 years, and he started the new season 32nd on the provisional (one-year) list. A run of qualifying defeats saw him drop as low as 38th before the UK Championship.
Doherty's poor run of form continued during the 2008–09 season during which he won only two matches. For the first time since 1993, he failed to qualify for the World Championship having been beaten in the final qualifying round by Gerard Greene.
Doherty's form saw an upturn in the 2009/2010 season, with a rise back into the top 32 (at 30) in the rankings, up from 44th; this was thanks to a quarter-final appearance in the 2009 Shanghai Masters, and a last-16 appearance in the 2009 Grand Prix. Doherty defeated six-time World Championship finalist Jimmy White 10–3, and two-time Crucible semi-finalist Joe Swail 10–1 to mark his return to the World Championship for the first time since 2008. In an amusing moment, Doherty got down on his knees and kissed the carpet upon his return to the venue. However, he lost his first round match 10–4 to reigning Masters champion Mark Selby.
The 2010/2011 season proved to be a mixed campaign for Doherty, who made the last 32 of the 2010 World Open, yet missed out on qualifying for the 2011 German Masters, 2011 Welsh Open (snooker) and crucially, blowing a 6–3, losing 10–6 Jimmy Robertson in the final stage of qualifying for the 2011 World Snooker Championship, meaning he had only reached the Crucible in one of his previous three attempts.
Doherty had an excellent start to the 2011/2012 season as he qualified for the Australian Goldfields Open, where he reached his first ranking event semi-final since 2006. He beat Mark Selby 5–3 in the quarter-finals, sealing the match with a clearance which he described as the best of his career. Doherty also stated that he almost quit the game in 2009, following his downturn in form which saw him drop to world number 55. He failed to replicate his form in the semi-finals, however, as he was beaten 2–6 by Mark Williams. In the remainder of the season Doherty qualified for the German Masters and the Welsh Open, but was defeated in the first round to Williams and Mark Allen respectively, without picking up a frame. He also reached the final of the non-ranking Irish Classic, losing 2–5 to Fergal O'Brien.
He was ranked 32nd in the world going into the World Championship qualifiers, where he faced Anthony Hamilton. The match went into a deciding frame with Doherty 40 points behind, but he profited from a Hamilton error to produce a match-winning clearance to win 10–9 and earn a first-round match against Neil Robertson. He lost 4–10 and finished the season ranked world number 35.
Doherty began the 2012/2013 season by losing 4–5 to Stuart Bingham in the second round of the Wuxi Classic and 3–5 to Martin Gould in the first round of the Australian Goldfields Open. He finally compiled the first official 147 break of his career at the minor-ranking 2012 Paul Hunter Classic in Germany during a first round win against Julian Treiber. He went on to reach the quarter-finals of the event, losing 0–4 to Mark Selby. Doherty was defeated in qualifying for the Shanghai Masters and the UK Championship and failed to advance beyond the wildcard round of the International Championship. At the fifth European Tour Event, the Scottish Open, he saw off the likes of Luca Brecel and Ryan Day to reach the semi-finals where he lost 2–4 against Ding Junhui. Doherty was eliminated in the first round of the German Masters by Peter Lines, but then had his best run of the season at the Welsh Open. He beat four-time world champion John Higgins 4–1 and Tom Ford 4–3 to make it through to the quarter-finals. He led Stuart Bingham 2–0, but a series of missed pots saw Doherty lose his confidence and he went on to lose 3–5. His aforementioned run to the semi-finals of the Scottish Open helped him finish 16th on the PTC Order of Merit to qualify as one of the top 26 players for the Finals, but he lost 2–4 to Kurt Maflin in the first round. Doherty almost pulled off one of his trademark comebacks against Matthew Selt in the final round of World Championship qualifying as from 4–9 down he levelled at 9–9, but lost the deciding frame. The result meant that this was the first season where Doherty had not featured in any of snooker's Triple Crown events. Doherty increased his ranking by eight spots during the season to finish it ranked world number 27.
Doherty qualified for all but two of the ranking events in the 2013/2014 season, but couldn't advance beyond the second round in any of them. In April, he qualified for the World Championship after a 10–5 win against Dechawat Poomjaeng in the final qualifying round. Doherty was the oldest player in the draw in his 19th Crucible appearance and after trailing Stuart Bingham 5–4 in the opening session of their first round match, Doherty produced his best snooker to take all six frames in the next session and win a match at the Crucible for the first time since 2006. He then lost 13–8 to Alan McManus, the second oldest player in the event.
Doherty defeated three players to qualify for the 2014 Shanghai Masters and met Mark Selby in the first round after coming through a wildcard round in China, losing 5–2. The only other tournament Doherty could advance to the last 32 in this season was the UK Championship by overcoming Mitchell Mann and Michael White, but he was beaten 6–1 by Ricky Walden. He was knocked out of the semi-finals of the World Seniors Championship by Fergal O'Brien. He reached the final round of World Championship qualifying following wins over Reanne Evans and Lee Walker, and was thrashed 10–3 by Mark Davis. Doherty was placed 45th in the world rankings at the end of the season, the lowest he had been since 1991.
A 6–0 thrashing at the hands of Peter Ebdon ended Doherty's International Championship at the first round stage and he lost 6–3 to Mark Davis in the second round of the UK Championship, having whitewashed Tony Drago 6–0 in the opener. His best runs of the season were a pair of last 32 exits at the German Masters and Welsh Open, 5–1 to Stephen Maguire and 4–2 to Joe Perry respectively. His end of season ranking of 57 was the lowest of his 26-year professional career. He had two last 16 showings during the 2016/2017 season and would have dropped off the tour at the end of the season as he was outside of the top 64 in the world rankings. However, the day before the 2017 World Championship started it was announced that Doherty would receive an invitational tour card for the next two years.
In 2018 Doherty played against Ronnie O'Sullivan the defending champion in the second round of the UK Championship, few could have predicted it would be a very close match. Doherty was sharp throughout the first half of the first session, leading 3–1, he extended his lead further to 4–1 but O'Sullivan fought back well to win the next 4 frames, Doherty was able to force a decider but ultimately just a few errors from himself was enough for his opponent to finish the frame to prevent him from causing a considerable upset in the tournament where many seeds fell to lower ranked players already and more would follow. Doherty would be the only player that came close to defeating the eventual champion, besides the final the other matches produced very one sided results.
Despite being most renowned as an intelligent tactician, he is a heavy scorer when amongst the balls at close quarters. This relatively cautious approach has led to the nickname "Crafty Ken".
Doherty's early career had begun with practice in Jason's, a snooker club in Ranelagh, Dublin, where he used to play handicap snooker tournaments on Saturday mornings before moving on to national level. This club closed in 2006 and he now practises in a Dublin hotel. In his first national event, an U-16 ranking tournament, Doherty lost in the final but would come back a month later and beat the man who had beaten him in the Irish U-16 National Championships.
Doherty has played his entire career with a warped cue randomly selected from the cue rack in Jason's. He humorously revealed that the club manager originally wanted £5 for it, but Doherty haggled him down to £2. In his words, "It's warped. I must be one of the few professionals playing with a warped cue, but I wouldn't dream of changing it. I have got used to holding it in a certain way, with my eye trained on a piece of grain."
Doherty works on TV coverage of snooker matches with the BBC snooker coverage team.
Doherty guested as a presenter on the Morning Show on East Coast FM. He presents a sports programme on Sunshine 106.8FM on Saturday mornings,
Doherty resides in Rathgar and is married to Sarah. Their first child, a son named Christian, was born in 2007.
Doherty is a Manchester United fan and he paraded his trophy at Old Trafford in front of 55,000 spectators following his World Championship triumph. It is also said that Ken is a follower of Barnsley after attending Barnsley's pre-season friendly against Manchester City in 2009. The stadium announcer was heard saying at half time that there was a celebrity fan sitting in the upper East Stand at Oakwell and later revealed that it was Ken.
Doherty was nearly blinded in 2002 in a bathroom accident; after slipping, he struck an ornament, which narrowly missed his left eye. However, the distinctive scar on his right cheek dates back to his seventh birthday, when he fell off a shed roof on to a metal dustbin.
In May 2007, Doherty appeared on RTÉ's spoof show Anonymous, heavily disguised as a priest. Ostensibly he was a beginner at snooker and received some tips from Alex Higgins, who was initially fooled by the make-up and Doherty's hopeless play. However, as "Fr Donoghue" began to clear the table, Higgins' suspicions were aroused and Doherty was eventually rumbled. Still, Doherty's disguise was enough to fool his mother and wife.
He currently represents an Irish poker site, appearing on radio commercials, and regularly playing in tournaments, where the players on the site receive a bonus for knocking him out.
In partnership with Sean Francis O'Donoghue and Karl Leon Paul, Doherty set up an online Cue Sports equipment-marketing company.
Doherty has been a WPBSA player director since 2012.
Performance and rankings timeline
Ranking finals: 17 (6 titles, 11 runners-up)
Minor-ranking finals: 1 (1 runner-up)
Non-ranking finals: 30 (17 titles, 13 runners-up)
Team finals: 2 (2 runners-up)
Pro-am finals: 12 (6 titles, 6 runners-up)
Variant finals: 1 (1 title)
Amateur finals: 5 (4 titles, 1 runner-up)
- Doherty, Ken (2011). Ken Doherty – Life in the Frame – My Story. Blake Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84358-504-6.