Neil Goulding’s Crucible Column: How Shaun Murphy rediscovered his magic touch

Shaun Murphy at the table in the final match against Stuart Bingham
Shaun Murphy at the table in the final match against Stuart Bingham

Snooker is a sport which requires ultimate dedication and mental fortitude.

Even to be a mid-ranked player on the professional tour takes a huge amount of commitment, but to become world champion here at the Crucible you need to have something special about you.

Shaun Murphy seemed to have lost his magic - and his bottle - in a barren period where he made eight major semi-finals without taking home any trophies.

But the Magician, who used to live in Rotherham, has conjured up a super spell to book his place in this year’s best-of-35 frame final against Stuart Bingham.

However, the world No 8, appearing in his third Crucible final, admits he came close to hanging up his cue for good after the disappointment of not building on his magical 2005 world title win.

“I just lost complete love for the game and didn’t enjoy what I was doing,” revealed Murphy. “At 22 I’d won the world title and I’d had a career of pretty much winning everything I went in. I expected to go on and do bigger and better things having won this championship – the second youngest player to ever do so – and what followed was a difficult few years on tour learning my trade. It wasn’t easy, it didn’t work out as I thought. I lost a lot of matches that I should have won and at my lowest point I considered going off and doing something else.

“But for the support of my friends and family, and some good people around me, I wouldn’t be here, so it’s really down to them.”

Now, after a torrid two years without a major ranking crown, Murphy has shown that he has back to his brilliant best. A run to the final on snooker’s greatest stage is what the 32-year-old has strived for even since his 2009 final defeat to John Higgins.

“For me the pressure of not being world champion, or competing for it again, was what got to me,” added Murphy. “It wasn’t the pressure of being world champion, I loved every minute of it.”

It’s great to have Betfred back as sponsors of this iconic event. This weekend they donated £25,000 to local charity Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice, after the pre-tournament target of 70 centuries was met.

It was Murphy who hit the 105 that took us to the total, so it was only fitting that he was on hand to present the cheque to some of the volunteers who give up their time to raise funds for the charity.

Murphy waved his magic wand but only holds a slender 9-8 lead after the first two stunning sessions of the showcase final, as Bingham was brilliant too.

The pair made history on the night, smashing the record for the highest number of century breaks made at a World Championship, which was previously set at 83 in 2009.