Snooker ace Mark Allen hopes he can give sports fans in his homeland a boost with success in next week’s Dafabet Northern Ireland Open.
A keen football fan, Allen was disappointed to see Northern Ireland miss out on a place at the World Cup when they lost their play off tie against Switzerland earlier this week.
But the world number six is determined to give local fans something to cheer about at the Belfast Waterfront next week, at the world ranking event which runs from November 20 to 26.
All of the Northern Irish players will be in action on the opening day: Allen, Joe Swail, Gerard Greene, Jordan Brown and Declan Brennan.
“I’m in China this week so I couldn’t watch the football live on Sunday but I was following it online and I saw the highlights,” said Antrim’s 31-year-old Allen. “Switzerland deserved to win the first leg although they got a dubious penalty. Northern Ireland played really well in the second leg and were unlucky not to score.
“It would be great if one of the local players could have a good run next week. Maybe the fans shouldn’t count on me because I was very nervous from start to finish at the tournament last year, although I got to the quarter-finals. I expect I’ll be the same this time. It’s like another major for me and with that comes a lot of pressure. Last year every time I looked up into the crowd I could see 30 or 40 people I knew.
“I thought I would handle it well last year and I really didn’t. At least I have a bit more experience now. I have to try to block out the fact that it’s my home tournament and just concentrate on playing snooker.”
Allen has been in fine form recently, reaching the final of the International Championship and the last 16 of this week’s Shanghai Masters.
“I’m happy with my consistency although what I really want is to be winning trophies,” he added. “I just need to keep working hard. I’m enjoying the game at the moment and doing something I love for a living. In the past I expected to play well all the time and got down on myself when I played badly, but I have accepted now that snooker is not a game where you can be perfect all the time.”
In all there will be 128 players at the Belfast Waterfront competing for the Alex Higgins Trophy, including Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, John Higgins, Shaun Murphy and Joe Swail.
Tickets are still available and start at just £10, incredible value for the chance to see the sport’s top stars. Local fans are strongly urged to come to the venue and support the Northern Irish stars on Monday.
For details CLICK HERE or call 028 9033 4455