Exclusive: Irish Snooker Legend Ken Doherty Reveals Near Retirement Decision Before Accepting Wildcard Extension

The 54-year-old former world champion reflects on his illustrious 34-year career, his love for the game, and his plans to make the most of his final seasons on the World Snooker Tour. Read more about Doherty's journey, his rivalry with Stephen Hendry, and his commitment to mentoring young players.

Neil Goulding
Neil Goulding

Last Updated: 2024-07-01

Louis Hobbs

6 minutes read

Irish snooker legend Ken Doherty has revealed he came perilously close to retirement this year.

But the former world champion is delighted to have accepted a new two-year wildcard to extend his distinguished 34-year career and intends to savour what could be his final seasons on the World Snooker Tour.

Contemplating Retirement

Doherty, 54, has been ever-present on the professional tour since 1990 and won over 20 tournaments, most famously being crowned world champion in 1997.

However, the Darlin’ of Dublin struggled for form last season and would have been relegated from the tour having finished 79th in the world rankings.

“I have thought about retirement a fair bit, but it’s a massive decision because snooker is all I’ve ever known,” Doherty told

Image Credits: Inkl

Image Credits: Inkl

Love for the Game

“But I still love the game and I still love competing. Whenever that stops, I’m sure I’ll know when the time is right to stop, but this wildcard is a great opportunity for me to enjoy two more seasons on the tour.”

“It’s hard because the standard is so high these days, you have to stay motivated and want to keep practise.”

“I really do, so I’m going to try and savour these couple of seasons as much as possible and see what happens.”

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The only thing I’m disappointed is that my golf is going to have go on the back-burner!

Joked Doherty

One Last Push for More Success

Doherty loves his golf as well, but the avid Manchester United fan is focused on putting in the hours on the practice table so that his wildcard seasons don’t fall flat.

“I can’t honestly believe how quick my career has gone, where have 34 years gone?” reflected Doherty.

“It feels like yesterday I made my debut on the pro tour, but I’ve had an amazing career and I’m really grateful and thankful for what I’ve achieved in the game.”

“I feel very privileged to have been given this wildcard, I’m going to my giving it my all-next season. Let’s see if I can spring a few surprises!”

“I’m also enjoying helping some of the younger players coming through, I think it’s important to give something back to the sport.”

“I’m enjoying doing that and playing, it’s all about enjoyment for me.”

WST Chairman Steve Dawson said: “In view of Ken’s tremendous record as a player and a fantastic ambassador for snooker, we had no hesitation in offering him a tour card.”

“He is a great asset to our sport and also remains very competitive as a player and no doubt fans will continue to enjoy watching him in action over the next two seasons.”

Legendary Status, Friends and Rivals

Ranelagh potter Doherty famously beat fellow legend Stephen Hendry 18-12 to win the coveted Crucible crown and competed in two other world finals.

Doherty also played in three Masters, and two UK finals during a career which has seen him battle it out with a golden generation of stars including Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams. But his good friend and long-term rival Hendry has finally decided to hang up his cue after a surprise comeback which never ignited.

Hendry turned down an offer of a two-year wildcard to join Doherty on tour but admires the Irishman for his hunger to keep playing.

“I totally admire Ken and Jimmy White for their dedication, at the end of the day snooker is in our blood, it’s all we’ve ever known,” said seven-time world champion Hendry.

Neil Goulding
Neil GouldingSenior Sports Reporter

Neil has been a journalist for longer than he'd care to remember, having written for national newspapers and respected publications for over 25 years. For the last three years he has worked freelance for BBC Sport, working on the production desk as a sub-editor and also as a writer, covering a whole range of sports.