Name: Dennis Taylor
DOB: January 19th, 1949
Nationality: Northern Irish
Turned Pro: 1972
Highest Ranking: #2 (1979/80)
Highest Break: 142 (1987 Matchroom Championship)
Career Highlights: 1985 World Champion, 1984 Grand Prix Champion, 1987 Masters Champion, 5x Irish Professional Champion, 2x Canadian Masters Champion, 3x Times World Cup winner
As a youngster growing up in Northern Ireland, Dennis Taylor first began to play snooker at the age of nine, before also showing a prowess for the game of billiards which he felt would help him to improve his cue ball control. Eventually he chose to move to England in pursuit of work, but as he found that he could compete well on the table against the local amateurs, it was snooker that would soon take centre stage.
In 1968 he captured the British Junior Billiards Championship and in 1972, despite having failed to win the English Amateur Championship, he was able to turn professional just as snooker was really beginning to take off as a sport.
In 1973 Dennis was to make his début at the World Championship (then staged in Manchester), though it was to be short-lived as he went down 9-8 to another débutante, Cliff Thorburn in the first round. The following year however saw him fail to qualify as he slipped to an 8-1 defeat against Welshman Marcus Owen and a decision was taken to give up his day job and concentrate solely on his snooker career.
This seemed to work immediately as the following year he was able to break new ground in the World Championship, defeating Perrie Mans, Fred Davis and Gary Owen to make the semi-finals for the first time. Unfortunately however a difficult flight from Sydney to Brisbane before that match left him ill-prepared and he went down 19-12 to local favourite Eddie Charlton.
During the next few seasons he was able to maintain a consistently high level of performance, entering the inaugural world rankings at number nine in 1976/7, but he was struggling to really push on and win titles.
In 1979 he was to enjoy his best season yet however as he reached the final of the Bombay Open and the semis of the UK Championship, before going all the way to the final of the World Championship which by now had moved to its now spiritual home at the Crucible. There he came up against surprise package Terry Griffiths and although leading 15-13 at one stage, was to lose 11 of the next 12 to lose 24-16. He did however have the consolation of moving up to what would be a career high ranking of number two in the world behind Welsh legend Ray Reardon.
During the next few seasons Dennis’ form was to continue in the same vein as despite winning the Irish Championship a couple of times and reaching the occasional final, he could not quite seem to win them regularly. One reason for this was surely his eye problems as he struggled to cope with both wearing glasses or contact lenses when at the table. In 1983 however he was to make a major breakthrough as with Jack Karnehm they developed a new pair of glasses which were a significant improvement for Dennis and allowed him to retain his top 16 place for the 1984/5 season
Armed with his new glasses and a new cue, 1984/5 started well as he won the Costa del Sol Classic and then at the Grand Prix he managed to go all the way to glory and take his first ranking event title with an emphatic 10-2 final victory over old foe Thorburn.
Arriving at the Crucible full of confidence therefore, he was able to cruise his first two matches against Silvino Francisco and Eddie Charlton before once again coming up against Thorburn. As it turned out though despite the match being a long contest, Dennis was able to win by a comfortable 13-5 scoreline and was into yet another semi-final where he would meet Tony Knowles. Again though it was to be another comfortable win, this time 16-5 and he was into his second world final where of course he would meet the undisputed world number one, Steve Davis.
Having been beaten in eight of their nine previous meetings, things looked bleak for Dennis, even more so when he lost every frame of the first session to trail 8-0 early on. Amazingly though, Dennis hit back and perhaps feeling that he now had nothing to lose, began to play some of his very best snooker to close the gap to just two frames at 9-7 overnight.
The next day he continued his fightback, levelling the match at 11-11 before Davis appeared to have regained his composure, moving into a 15-12 lead. Taylor again hit back though and won the next three frames to make it 15-15 in a match that just did not seem to want to end. Davis again showed his class to move just one away from the match but typically Taylor came back once again to force a thrilling deciding frame.
It went on and on but finally at 12:23am, Taylor who had never led previously in the match, sunk the final black to win what is now generally regarded as the greatest snooker match ever and more importantly – his first World Championship. It was a hugely popular victory for the underdog and as his now infamous celebration was watched by 18.5 million viewers in the UK alone, he had secured his place in snooker history.
The following season saw Dennis again reach the final of the Grand Prix, but this time the trophy was not to be his as Davis gained some revenge with a dramatic 10-9 victory. Though he did manage to win the Canadian Masters later in the year, he was not to win another ranking event title and saw his hopes of defending his world title come to an end in 1986 as Mike Hallett ran out a 10-6 winner.
He had though done enough to move up to number three in the world rankings for 1986/7 and during that season managed to win the B&H Masters at Wembley for the first time with a 9-8 victory in the final against bitter rival Alex Higgins.
From there though the trophies dried up and as he entered his 40’s, his best days were clearly behind him, though he did manage to remain inside the top 16 until the end of the 1993/4 season. With his commentary role at the BBC becoming more and more successful, eventually he decided to retire for good at the end of the 1999/2000 season.
Ranking Events (2)
Non-Ranking Event wins (16)
|Canadian Masters||1985, 1987|
|World Trickshot Champion||1997-8|
|World Cup (Ireland)||1985-7|
|Irish Professional Championship||1980, 1982, 1985-7|