Defending champion Judd Trump negotiated a stern first round test against James Cahill to emerge a 4-3 victor at the 19.com Northern Ireland Open in Belfast
The Ace in the Pack lifted the title here a year ago, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-7 in a thrilling final. That ended a run of 13 months without ranking silverware and marked the beginning of a golden season for Trump, who picked up maiden Masters and World Championship titles.
Trump has solidified his position at the summit of the sport this season by becoming world number one after victories at the International Championship and World Open. He comes into this week off the back of narrowly losing a thrilling Champion of Champions final 10-9 to Neil Robertson on Sunday.
30-year-old Trump started off this afternoon’s match in blistering fashion. He fired in consecutive century breaks of 106, 122 and 111 to charge into a 3-0 lead.
From there Cahill, nicknamed the Giant Killer after defeating Ronnie O’Sullivan at this year’s World Championship while playing as an amateur, mounted a comeback charge.
The Blackpool potter stole the fourth frame on the black to keep his hopes alive. Cahill then made it 3-2, before breaks of 56 and 55 helped him to force a decider. Trump eventually edged his way over the line with a run of 75 to wrap up the 4-3 victory.
“I always felt in control and I always felt like I could score heavily throughout the whole game,” said Bristol’s Trump. “I think he is the sort of person that needs to be on the big stage to play his best and once again he proved it. He came back well.”
36-time ranking event winner Ronnie O’Sullivan booked his place in the second round with a hard fought 4-2 win over world number 80 Oliver Lines.
O’Sullivan claimed a tightly contested 35-minute tactical frame to take a 1-0 lead. However, Lines restored parity and then moved to the front by taking the third frame on the black to lead 2-1.
The Rocket secured three frames on the bounce, including a break of 87, to turn the match on its head and emerge a 4-2 victor.
O’Sullivan said: “I’d much rather just hammer people to be honest. 10-1 or 9-0, I love all of that. I don’t enjoy having to battle. Every match this year feels like it has been a deciding frame. I’m just happy to still be in the 19.com Northern Ireland Open, it is a great tournament and I still want to be in it.”
Northern Ireland’s number one Mark Allen got his campaign off to a solid start after a 4-2 win over Sam Craigie.
2018 Masters winner Allen, who exited in the first and second rounds in the last two years, has admitted to suffering from nerves in front of his home fans in the past.
However, he secured victory today with contributions of 74 and 77. After his match he admitted to adopting a different approach to the event to try and negate any nerves.
Allen said: “I tried not to get too involved with the crowd today. I’ve had a completely different approach to the tournament this year. I’ve tried to stay away from all of the tickets and phone calls. I have also done as few interviews as possible. I am just trying to treat it like any other tournament. I am even staying in a hotel and I only live 20 minutes away.”
“It would be a dream to win. This event was added to the calendar three years ago and it is definitely on my radar. I am a very proud Northern Ireland supporter and I want to do it for the fans. First and foremost I need to do it for myself though and I haven’t been doing that in previous years.”
Stuart Bingham fired in the sixth 147 of his career on the way to a dramatic 4-3 defeat of China’s Lu Ning. The 2015 World Champion had led 3-0, but was pegged back to a deciding frame which he eventually claimed on the pink.