Mark Allen won his grudge match with Mark Joyce to reach the second round of his home event at the Northern Ireland Open on Tuesday.
In a fiery contest, the Antrim man ousted old foe Joyce 4-1 in front of an army of local supporters in Belfast.
The origin of Allen and Joyce’s rivalry is wrapped in secrecy, but Allen has certainly not been shy about coming forward with his dislike of the Englishman.
In fact, the animosity has generally been one-way with Joyce rarely getting in on the slagging match despite the fact that Allen has labeled the 33 year-old as a man many on the circuit don’t like.
In the past, Allen’s desperation to defeat Joyce has gotten the better of his emotions, with the 30 year-old coming into this tie possessing a surprisingly inferior head-to-head record.
It looked as though a repeat shock could be on the cards but Allen produced a gutsy clearance in the third frame, accompanied with a fist pump and a “come on”, to move in front and he never looked back.
With a number of the higher ranked players not entering this, the second event in the Home Nations series, Allen will feel he is one of the favourites for the title on his home soil.
The three-time ranking event champion will face Michael Georgiou in the last 64 after the Cypriot prevented an all-Irish clash following his triumph over Patrick Wallace.
Joe Swail also exited early to the dismay of his legion of fans after a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Dominic Dale.
There was some extra joy on the second day, though, with Dublin’s Ken Doherty recording a 4-0 scoreline over Ashley Hugill.
The amateur lost the opening frame in unfortunate circumstances as he was docked for being late as an accident caused traffic chaos in Belfast.
But the win was good news for the 1997 world champion, who is in peril of dropping outside the world’s top 64 this season where a future tour card is guaranteed.
Elsewhere, English Open champion Liang Wenbo emerged victorious in his first round encounter with birthday boy Nigel Bond to extend his hopes of the unlikely million pound bonus for winning all four of the Home Nations tournaments.
That said, unlikely as it may be, the draw has certainly opened up considerably for Liang with the withdrawal of Judd Trump and Ali Carter from his quarter and the early defeat of Stephen Maguire – who was also in his section.
Maguire was downed in a decider by countryman Alan McManus while another Scot, Anthony McGill, progressed with a 4-2 victory over Fang Xiongman.
Meanwhile, Ding Junhui’s stunning loss to Yu Delu ensured that none of the top five in the world feature in the last 64.
Indeed, the highest ranked competitor left standing is John Higgins, and with his form of late he must surely stand as the man to beat once again this week.
The 41 year-old meets Sam Craigie on Wednesday as the field is whittled down to the final 32.
Of course, the clash of the round takes place in the evening session when the ever-popular Jimmy White challenges Ronnie O’Sullivan.
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