baize of glory | 

Forgotten Irish snooker hero Paddy Morgan reveals a vicious beating by his father ended his career

Paddy beat Alex Higgins, Dennis Taylor and Cliff Thorburn before his career was cut short
Former Snooker player Paddy Morgan speaks to the Sunday World in Belfast.

Former Snooker player Paddy Morgan speaks to the Sunday World in Belfast.

Former Snooker player Paddy Morgan speaks to the Sunday World in Belfast.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

Former Snooker player Paddy Morgan speaks to the Sunday World in Belfast. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Paddy Morgan

Paddy Morgan

Paddy Morgan boy wonder

Paddy Morgan boy wonder

Roisin GormanSunday World

Forgotten snooker hero Paddy Morgan has revealed his career was ended because of a vicious childhood beating by his father.

Paddy was a hero on the baize in Belfast and became the Australian number two after moving Down Under.

During his career he beat the greats of the game, including Alex Higgins, Dennis Taylor, Cliff Thorburn and Terry Griffiths.

But just as he hit his prime he developed double vision, an incurable condition caused by an assault by his dad when he was just 15.

Now 79, he’s back in his home town where great-nephew Michael Duffy has set up a Facebook page in his honour.

Paddy, who ran a coaching business and was the resident pro in Sydney’s prestigious Tattersalls Club, says he’s not bitter that his dad Patrick’s assault eventually ended his rise through the game, but knows that he missed out on a longer career.

He’s never spoken publicly about why his career ended and says he’s addressing it now because so many people have asked him why he stopped playing.

Paddy Morgan

Paddy Morgan

He was the Northern Ireland and Ireland amateur snooker champion and the British Junior Billiards champion before moving to Australia with wife Joan in 1970 where he met coach Murt O’Donoghue. Paddy still holds the Irish billiards record of 1,280 points in two hours and was known as one of the best long potters in snooker.

“Before I met Murt I only thought I could play. I was a good player, but I still knew nothing about the game until I met that old boy. He had so much knowledge. He used to say to me ‘I never met anyone with your touch at both games’.

“I’d never have been able to beat Alex Higgins if I hadn’t met him.”

He’d already played Belfast legend Alex in a challenge match at the Whitla Hall at Queen’s University, but their most memorable meeting was just after Higgins had become world champion in 1972.

Former Snooker player Paddy Morgan speaks to the Sunday World in Belfast.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

Former Snooker player Paddy Morgan speaks to the Sunday World in Belfast. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

The Hurricane set off on a tour of Australia, telling the media that earning £20,000 and beating Paddy Morgan were top of his agenda.

The pair played in Lithgow, north of Sydney, but Higgins was furious when he lost 5-4. He wasn’t happy with it, and he asked the manager of the club if he could play me three more games,” says Paddy.

Higgins, who’d only won £400 for winning the world snooker title, was prepared to bet his $750 fee on three games against Paddy, but he lost 3-0.

“There were trestle tables of food set up and Alex Higgins upended one of them and there was food all over the place.

“The manager grabbed him by the collar and belt and marched him out the door and down the steps, and left him there, and it was freezing. But Alex had to sit there until I was ready to go because I was his lift back to Sydney!”

The pair became friends and Alex often stayed with him on trips to Australia, but in typical Higgy style he also threatened to have Paddy killed during a tournament in England, a threat which was swiftly withdrawn when Paddy confronted the Hurricane.

Paddy believes Higgins, who died in 2010, was the best snooker player in the world, and only Ronnie O’Sullivan comes close to his natural talent.

Dad-of-two Paddy settled in Australia where he played for the national team and was the number two behind Eddie Charlton. He took part in World Match Play and was ranked 21 in the world.

He last played professionally in 1991 after developing vision problems when his game became erratic.

“I’d felt for a few years I was having problems where I could play well one day and not play the next day,” says Paddy.

“I wasn’t focusing and was missing easy shots, and the next day I could knock them in from anywhere.

“I went to four eye specialists and they couldn’t find anything wrong, and then the fifth guy had me diagnosed in five minutes. He asked me if I’d had any childhood accidents, and I told him about my old man busting my two eyes, and he told me that’s what did it.”

Paddy says his father was always a vicious man but as a seaman his prolonged periods away from home kept the family safe from his fists.

He still clearly remembers coming home from a job cleaning the local mill at 15, when his mother was out, and his sister remarked that she was hungry.

“My old man said, ‘why didn’t you make her something to eat?’ and the next thing he busted my two eyes. There was blood everywhere. He gave me a towel and put me on a trolley bus up to the Children’s Hospital and told me to say I fell.

“I had to get stitches across both eyebrows where he punched me.

“He died nine years before I found out the effect that had on my sight, and if I had known I’d never have spoken to him again. If he did that now he’d never get away with it.

“I’m only talking about it now because I meet people and they say to me ‘Paddy what happened to you?’

“I’m not bitter. It’s just a fact of life. It’s not the money I could have earned from snooker, because Joan and I had a good life, it was the competitiveness. I just felt I had missed out.”

Great-nephew Michael is determined to celebrate Paddy’s contribution to the roll call of Northern Ireland snooker greats and has set up a Facebook page and appealed for anyone with pictures of him to get in touch.

“If I didn’t know his history, and he’s my great-uncle, then it’s only the older generation who will know his story,” says Michael

“It’s only now we are realising what a great player he was.”

roisin.gorman@sundayworld.com


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