- Quote: ‘I bought the cue from George McGregor. I told him I’d marry his daughter if he sold it me – I still haven’t met his daughter yet!’.
FORMER Larne deputy Mayor and Councillor Drew Niblock, who plans to retire at La Finca, looks back on his sporting life – playing snooker with Alex Higgins – and representing Northern Ireland at pool.
“I started playing snooker with Eddie Swafield who was a friend of Alex Higgins at the time, and Andy Sharp, one of the best amateur players who turned professional,” said Larne born Drew Niblock, who started out playing on the green baize as a teenager, aged 17.
“I played snooker on the amateur circuit and was manager of The Triangle Club in Larne, in the late eighties,” said Drew, 55.
“We brought ‘Higgy’ down for a challenge match – and he beat me on the pink,” recalled Drew, speaking in Los Montesinos, Alicante.
“Alex Higgins also played Jonathan Nelson and George McGregor,” said Drew.
Twice world snooker champion Belfast legend Higgins died on July 24, 2010, aged 61: “Myself and Alex were mutual friends. Higgy always wanted to try everyone’s cue.
“I have a Burroughes and Watts cue, which is between 80 and 100 years old – which Higgy used – and wanted to buy it.
“I told him it wasn’t for sale – money can’t buy it – and it remains the same today,” said Drew.
“I bought the cue when practising with George McGregor – after years of asking him for it.
“I told him that I would marry his daughter if he sold it to me – all these years on I still haven’t met his daughter yet!,” laughed Drew.
Players who were a big influence on Drew in the early years included Higgins, Tony Drago and Jimmy White.
“Tony Drago was a natural talent – and loved partying. Who doesn’t?,” said Drew.
“I practised with Tony Drago in Wales during a tournament there. Jimmy White and Higgy were also influential in the early days of my career,” said Drew.
Recalling time with Higgy, Drew reminisced: “We went to a club in West Belfast and Alex was playing Joe Swail – I think Alex won – at a time when Joe was an amateur.
“After the game Alex stayed at the Europa Hotel that night – and he asked me to run out and get him a pizza – despite being in one of the top hotels,” smiled Drew.
“Over the course of the last 30 to 40 years snooker has lost its main interest from the people – who have turned to pool.
“The Northern Ireland pool team is very strong, that includes players from Larne, including Jonathan Nelson, a top class player and one who would hold his own against anyone,” said Drew.
Drew, who has represented Northern Ireland at pool, said: “During the last seven years I turned to politics and being the deputy Mayor of Larne took up a lot of my time.
“I was working in the Power generation industry for 20 years, up until 2014, when I left to go into business in the aircraft industry and travelled the world repairing aircraft.
“Now I am back in the Energy waste industry in Northern Ireland, with Bouygues, which started-up in Belfast, working in the energy waste sector.
“It’s the first of its kind in Northern Ireland of producing energy from waste. A very environmentally friendly to produce electricity and very little landfill, something that is being addressed.
“Landfill costs in Northern Ireland is £120 a ton – the saving is now taken off the ratepayers bills.”
Drew said: “I was working in Mexico when I got a call to join the team and I decided to accept the offer, as it was the right time to go back home.”
On the future, Drew, who won the 2017 Q-Club Larne B3 pool tournament, said: “I have bought a property in La Finca, Alicante, on the Costa Blanca south and plan to retire in the near future.”
*If I knew you Were Comin’ I’d ‘ave baked a Cake – The Alex Higgins story (£10) order at copy email: email@example.com