The North-West Association records with deep regret the death of Liam McCann, one of local snooker’s all-time greats, who sadly went to his eternal rest on Wednesday last, 22nd June. He was aged 63.
We tend to magnify the prowess of players in the regrettable aftermath of their passing, but that is hardly the case with regards to Liam McCann (above) who, with his glittering array of achievements, break-building expertise and flair-filled brand of snooker, thoroughly deserves the ‘all-time great’ approbation.
Regarded as a rising star during his snooker apprenticeship in the early 1960s at St. Pat’s (Waterside), he emerged from the promising category into the ‘real deal’. A multiple winner of major individual titles and team tournament medals, he won an army of admirers with an exciting repertory of skilfully executed screw, stun and side shots, together with the ability to compile sizeable breaks.
During a career in NW competitive snooker which spanned some 25 years (1963-88), the Waterside-born cueist wore the colours of St. Pat’s (1963-65), AOH (1965-67), St. Pat’s (1967-70), AOH (1970-72), Derry City SC (1972-75), Ming’s SC (1977-81), Duffy SC (1982-84) and Top Break (1986-88).
He accumulated an impressive tally of 14 winners medals in the major team tournaments - Premier League (1980-84-87-88), Premier Cup (1979-81-84), League Division One (1968-71-73-78-80), Senior Cup (1967-73) and Pairs Cup (1970-79).
While major team medals are not to be sniffed at, it’s in the Senior Championship where true NW snooker stardom is found and Liam excelled in the game’s most important event. And when he made his Senior Championship breakthrough in 1970, it enabled the McCann’s to set up a family record as the only three brothers to win NW snooker’s supreme individual title (Hugh, Noel and Liam).
In total, Liam won 11 ‘Triple Crown’ titles, comprising of five Senior Championship conquests (1970-75-79-85-88), a record four Burke Trophy victories, highlighted by an unrivalled three-in-a-row (1983-84-85-88), and two Pairs Championship wins (1975-78).
He twice achieved NW snooker’s most prestigious ‘double’ - winning the Senior Championship and Burke Trophy in the same year - and, suffice to say, was honoured with the ‘North-West Player of the Year’ accolade in both double-winning years (1985-88).
Apart from his star-studded career on the domestic scene, Liam made a significant impact further afield, 1978 was his headline year when, as well as taking the Northern Ireland Championship runner-up honours, he represented the province in the World Amateur Championship in Malta, and was capped at international level.
Although more renowned for his snooker prowess, he was a hard opponent to combat in the billiards code, courtesy of his ‘three-ball snooker’ technique (series of pot reds), and he completed a hat-trick of North-West Senior Championship titles (1974-77-81).
Player of the Year in 1988 on the back of his Senior Championship and Burke Trophy twin peaks, Liam was aged only 40 with several more good years left in the game. As it was, the twin peaks of 1988 proved the perfect send-off to his eventful career, as thereafter he put his competitive cue on the rack. And with his inexplicable and premature retirement, a rich chapter in NW snooker history closed.
Sincere condolences are extended to his wife Marguerite, sons, daughters, brothers Jim and Noel and sister Margaret.
May he rest in peace.