Doherty lifts Dubliners

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The Independent Online
"Scotland's favourite for World Cup" is a headline seldom seen but it has been a fair prediction for its cueists from the outset of the Castrol Honda World Cup and it remains true, following their 10-5 semi-final win over Thailand yesterday, for today's final against the Republic of Ireland.

Stephen Hendry, the world No 1, John Higgins, No 2, and Alan McManus, who lies sixth, are united in their resolve not to add to Scotland's sum total of national sporting disappointment. They had too much all-round strength for the host nation.

Although James Wattana, of Thailand, complains of the pressure of national expectation - "All they want from me is pot, pot, pot, win, win, win" - he won the desperate decider against Mark Williams which left Wales 10-9 quarter-final losers on the final pink.

He made a break of 118 - albeit followed by one of 139 from Higgins, the highest of the tournament - and won three of his five frames but did not receive strong enough support from his fellow Thais, Noppadon Noppachorn, ranked 122nd, and Tai Pichit, 140th, who won only one frame each.

England's three top-eighters, Peter Ebdon, No 3, Nigel Bond, No 5, and Ronnie O'Sullivan, No 8, cohered reasonably closely but without, it seemed, the shared dream of glory which sustained the trio of young Dubliners, Ken Doherty, Fergal O'Brien and Stephen Murphy, who beat them 10-9 in what was supposed to be Friday's semi-final but which ran three hours 40 minutes into Saturday, local time.

Their world No 7, Doherty, aninspiring captain, won six of his seven frames but the Irish would not have prevailed without the support of O'Brien, ranked 36th, and Murphy, 61st. O'Brien, sound and methodical, and Murphy, who has a more dangerous glint, both won two of six frames.

Ebdon, the England captain, who won only two of his six frames, manfully claimed: "I was the reason we were beaten. I let the side down and I'm not talking about one shot."

The shot he was not talking about was the simple red he missed on 67 when any colour in addition would have brought England level at 8-8 with all Doherty's scheduled frames gone.

Doherty recovered to win on the black to put the Irish two up with three to play but still, at 9-9, he had to play O'Sullivan in the tie-breaker.

It was to be, at 54 minutes, the longest frame O'Sullivan has played in competition. Twice he needed two snookers; twice he obtained them before Doherty clinched the Irish win.

"That's the hardest frame I've ever played," said the Irish hero. "The pressure was unbelievable. I was shaking like a leaf. You're not just playing for yourself. You're playing for your team-mates and your country. I wanted to do it for them."