Allen’s last ranking title came at the 2013 World Open
Mark Allen ended Shaun Murphy’s hopes of winning back to back ranking titles with a 6-4 victory in the semi-finals of the Ladbrokes Players Championship.
Allen came from 4-2 down to win the last four frames and set up a final clash with Ricky Walden in Manchester. First to ten frames on Sunday will receive the trophy and £100,000 top prize.
Both players will be aiming to win a ranking event on British soil for the first time. Northern Ireland’s 30-year-old Allen will be contesting his sixth ranking final and first since the 2014 International Championship, when he lost 10-7 to Walden. He’ll be aiming for his third ranking title having won the Haikou World Open in China in 2012 and 2013.
Murphy had won eight consecutive matches having captured the World Grand Prix crown two weeks ago but suffered a dip in form after the interval tonight and saw his hopes of winning consecutive ranking titles for the first time in his career end.
World number ten Allen has enjoyed a high level of consistency in recent months, winning the Bulgarian Open European Tour event as well as reaching the final of the Champion of Champions and the semis of the Welsh Open. He will hope to convert his opportunity tomorrow and win the biggest title of his career to date.
Breaks of 79 and 97 gave Murphy a 2-0 lead then Allen replied with a superb 134. Murphy took the next with 33 and 35 to lead 3-1 at the interval and he had a chance to extend his lead in frame five but missed a black off the spot on 27 and Allen capitalised with 40 to halve the gap. Murphy got the better of the sixth with 33 and 47 to lead 4-2.
A run of 47 helped Allen pull one back and he led 58-0 in frame eight when he missed a tough red to a baulk corner. But Murphy missed the last red to the same pocket and Allen took advantage for 4-4. Runs of 58 and 62 put the Antrim cueman ahead for the first time.
Murphy had chances in frame ten but crucially missed the last red to a centre pocket when he led by 19 points. Allen converted an excellent long pot on the red to a baulk corner and went on to make a fine clearance to seal his final spot.
“Given the way I have played this week, if I win the title tomorrow it will be the greatest sporting achievement since Northern Ireland qualifying for the Euros!” said Allen. “I have shown a very good attitude and a lot of determination all week. Tonight I felt like I was just hanging on at 4-2, then Shaun started to miss a few and I never gave up. It’s the kind of match I would have lost in the past.
“I think it’s the sign of a good player. Snooker’s easy when you’re playing well but at the moment there are more bad days than good and I’m still winning. I have struggled with my game for the last six months and I’m prepared for it now. I am winning a lot of scrappy frames and staying focussed mentally. It’s a crazy game sometimes. The final against Ricky will be very hard because he has come back into form after a bad six months. When he plays well he’s a match for anyone.”