It was one of the moments of the season.
Last season’s inaugural Northern Ireland Open produced one of the season’s most tear-jerking moments when Mark King lifted his first major ranking title after 25 years of trying.
The then 42-year-old finally became a ranking event winner after he beat Barry Hawkins 9-8 in a thrilling final frame thriller in Belfast – a win which ended years of frustration.
Victory earned King his biggest pay-check to date winning £70,000 and he was the first player to lift the Alex Higgins Trophy – dedicated to Northern Ireland’s two-times world champion considered one of the greatest players of all time.
And after clinching the match, King gave an emotionally-filled interview with Eurosport presenter Colin Murray telling the snooker world how much becoming a winner had meant to him and his proud family.
King revealed how gambling had become a big problem with his life and how it almost wrecked his relationship with his wife and paid tribute to his Dad who had been there for him from day one.
Below is a transcript of what he said to Colin Murray before lifting his first ever ranking title – a moment he will never forget.
To see the last two minutes when they (his children) came out – I have been dreaming of that since they have been born and I never thought it would happen.
I’m obviously 42-years-old, I’m on the last nine of my career so just to see them coming out and seeing me winning is everything.
My wife has been unbelievable. The last few years I did compulsive gambling, treat her like absolute crap but she stuck with me – she’s been an absolute rock and I can’t thank her enough. She’s an angel.
I just looked over and said ‘am I dreaming?’ because I still can’t believe it’s happened.
I just want to thank two or three people – Geoff and Stephen at the club who have been there from the beginning, Chris Henry who I have been working with for 18 months and he’s turned my game around.
And the one person who I want to thank more than anyone is my Dad because (gets emotional) I’m gutted he can’t be here tonight but he’s not feeling very well and he’s spend his last money on me all through the years.
To be fair even before this competition he lent me money to come because I was skint. Seriously he’s 83-years-old and he’s a little wheeler and dealer, ducking and diving and everyone on the tour knows him.
He’s the most loveliest bloke you will ever meet and I cannot thank him enough and the only think I can think him for is taking that trophy home.
(Colin Murray points out its taken King 319 tournaments to win a ranking event) Is that how many tournaments it’s been – oh my god I feel really old now. I lost my hair when I was about eleven and I feel about 300.
It’s one of them things where I thought it was never going to happen. I messed around with it, my gambling and all that years and years ago but I go to GA once a week and it keeps me clean and I’ve been off for nearly four years and had really good support from them.
The last time I was in Ireland I got to the final and, not being funny, even when a non-Irish player is playing they (the crowd) are so supportive. They’ve been absolutely fantastic all week.
The trophy is going anywhere (at home), I think it might have to come in between me and my Mrs tonight.
If I never win a tournament ever again I can say ‘you know what I’ve won that’ and do you know what – the fella (who its named after) Alex Higgins – when I was little I used to cuddle up to my dad watching the television when he used to play The Nugget (Steve Davis) and we always wanted Alex to win because everyone hated Steve because he was too good.
Alex was a fantastic person, a fantastic player and I want to thank Steve Davis because he helped me a lot along my career.
I still think I’m dreaming.
The emotional speech earned King the ‘Magic Moment’ gong at the World Snooker awards for the 2016/17 campaign.
The 2017 Northern Ireland Open begins on Monday with defending champion King placed at the top of the draw facing Australian Matthew Bolton.