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Mark Allen reveals surprise ‘extra lift’ en route to Northern Ireland Open title: ‘I couldn’t believe it’


Mark Allen enjoyed an emotional evening in Belfast in front of friends and family (Picture: Getty Images)

Mark Allen was not short of support in his epic Northern Ireland Open final win over John Higgins on Sunday night, but the unexpected presence of his mother in the crowd provided a ‘little extra lift’ on his way to the title.

The Pistol edged out John Higgins 9-8 in Belfast, winning the last three frames on the spin to do so in dramatic fashion.

It was a long and tense struggle between the pair, but the Northern Irishman finally got over the line in front of his home crowd, winning the event for the first time.

The atmosphere in the Waterfront Hall was incredible all evening, with both players well supported, but Allen says that seeing his mum, who has been struggling with her health, was an extra boost as he battled the four-time world champion.

‘I couldn’t believe it when I went in at the interval and seen my mum, I really didn’t expect that at all,’ Allen told WST after the win.

‘With her breathing difficulties, being on oxygen 24/7, it’s been a horrible 18 months for her.

‘I didn’t think she’d come because obviously it’s dangerous for her being around too many people with Covid still around.

‘Just to see her there was an extra little lift. Having my little girl, my partner, my family and friends that have supported me for years and years, all in the crowd.

‘You know every voice when they shout, it’s weird because you know who’s shouting for you. You want to perform a bit better, but the whole experience was amazing.’

Higgins looked set to claim an incredible 32nd ranking title when he made a superb break of 136 to go 8-6 ahead, but Allen showed his tremendous battling qualities to dig in and fight back.

‘I can’t believe it has actually happened, especially given my record here in recent years,’ he said. ‘I didn’t quite have my best stuff this week but what I did have was unbelievable resilience and determination.

‘I never gave up. At 8-6 down I was getting completely outplayed.’

Higgins was clearly pained by the loss, but had kind words for the champion who he gets on well with.

‘Right now it is pretty disappointing,’ said the Wizard of Wishaw. ‘This game is all about making memories. I think Mark will probably have one of the best memories of his life having it here with his friends, family and his daughter.

‘Every credit to him at 8-6 he could have folded, but he played a brilliant frame to go 8-7 and put the pressure back on. He is a great ambassador for Irish snooker, so brilliant and well done.’

Speaking to Alan McManus in the arena after his triumph, Allen said: What a guy John Higgins is. I really wanted to play John, especially here in Belfast, my home fans, I wanted to play one of the all-time greats and John is right up there.

‘He’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever wish to meet and it’s a pleasure to play against him.’

Allen climbs two places in the world rankings to #9 thanks to the £70,000 top prize, while Higgins moves up one spot to #6.


MORE : Mark Allen edges out John Higgins to win Northern Ireland Open in classic battle


MORE : Ronnie O’Sullivan praise ‘means more than all your titles and 147s,’ says John Higgins

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