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Mark Allen – ‘I would still put Northern Ireland as my biggest win’

Mark Allen was in a joyous mood after the competitor from Northern Ireland captured glory in the UK Championship on Sunday in York.

The Pistol trailed opponent Ding Junhui 6-1 during the first session at the Barbican Centre and looked set for a third runners-up prize in the event.

But the 36 year-old produced a stirring fight back to win nine out of the remaining ten frames and complete a stunning 10-7 triumph.

Victory for Allen represents his eighth career ranking crown and the second of this term having already defended his Northern Ireland Open trophy in October.

And it’s his first Northern Ireland Open triumph from last year that Allen still ranks as the most important of his career.

On that occasion he also staged a memorable comeback, overturning an 8-6 deficit to deny John Higgins 9-8 at the Waterfront Hall in front of his home fans in 2021.

Still, in sealing a second Triple Crown piece of silverware, Allen was particularly proud of his ability to get the job done despite having not produced his A-game for most of the competition.

Indeed, Sunday’s showdown was the fifth time in five ties during the week that he had to turn around a deficit of at least two frames.

“It doesn’t get any better than that, to be honest,” Allen told the World Snooker Tour during his post-match press conference.

“I really found some form when I needed to, I was getting completely outplayed. I struggled out there, I was missing some balls.”

“But I just never gave up. When I got it back to 6-3, I felt like something changed in my play, and I started hitting the ball nicer.

“I started scoring and my safety really, really improved – I was forcing a lot of chances then from Ding.

“I can’t believe I turned that around, but I played really, really well.

“I would still put Northern Ireland against John (Higgins in the 2021 final) as my biggest win because of the pressure I put myself under in Belfast.

“But what I will say about this week is, this is the first time I’ve won a really big tournament when nowhere near my best.

“That’s a really good sign going forward, because it’s alright winning whenever you’re flying, the game seems a bit easier.

“But to grind it out like I did all week and to find some form when I really needed it with my back against the wall in the final is something I’ll remember for a long, long time.

“When I started closing the gap, I just felt like if I got in front at any point, I wasn’t going to let it go.

“That’s the way I’ve felt all week as soon as I got in front so it’s a good mindset to have, but it’d be nice to start a match well at some point.

“I’m not getting as many abusive messages on social media as I used to, so that’s normally a sign you’re doing things well.

“I just need to continue to work hard. I’m in such a good place, and I don’t want to fall back into the way I was.

“I need to continue to work hard, keep enjoying my snooker, keep enjoying my practice, and enjoying things off the table as well.”

Allen has already earned £380,000 this season from his consistent performances in ranking events – more than a quarter of a million pounds more than the next highest earner from this term.

The former world amateur champion, who is clearly benefitting from a healthier lifestyle, has discovered a level of consistency that was so often absent from his game in previous years.

While there are still many tournaments to compete in between now and the end of the season, the Antrim man’s attention will surely start to shift to the prospect of landing the biggest title that has so far eluded him.

Allen has a disappointing record in the World Championship at the Crucible Theatre, but he’s undoubtedly one of the favourites as things stand.

Featured photo credit: WST

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