Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Allen out to put rocket up champion Ronnie at Crucible

Mark Allen is living the good life — but it will be so much sweeter if he can topple Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Betfred.com World Championship.

The Northern Ireland cueman is set for another year in the world’s top 16, which means he gets automatic entry to the events that matter most.

The 23-year-old from Antrim takes on O’Sullivan today in the first session of their second-round clash, which is due to finish on Saturday morning.

His countrymen Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor landed world titles in Sheffield but Allen is not even daring to dream of that.

Instead he is enjoying his career day by day, soaking up the experience of being paid for playing the sport he loves.

"If anyone thinks it’s a hard job then I wouldn’t mind swapping for a couple of days to let them see how good it is," Allen said. "I wouldn’t change it for the world.

"There’s no better feeling than going out there and performing on the big stage and winning matches, and hopefully, in the future, winning tournaments."

Allen savoured his opening-round win over qualifier Martin Gould and does not want to go home this weekend.

He believes he can dethrone O’Sullivan, and would love to provide Northern Ireland with another snooker triumph to celebrate.

"There are obviously so few players from there and it’s an honour to represent your country at these big tournaments," Allen explained.

"If I can look back at the end of my career and say I’ve done my country proud then I’ll be happy."

He is predicting a frantic shoot-out against O’Sullivan, who made three centuries in his first-round win over Stuart Bingham.

"I like to go for my shots, which will suit Ronnie, and Ronnie likes to go for his shots, which will suit me," Allen said.

"So I think it will be a good match for the neutral."

He has acclimatised to the large venues the players visit, and nerves are unlikely to be a factor against O’Sullivan.

Allen said: "I feel more relaxed when I’m playing in venues in front of cameras and on the big stage I definitely feel more relaxed.

"I’m starting to bring my ’A game’ more regularly but it’s still something I have to work on to get a bit of consistency.

"I’m definitely getting there but the standard is so high nowadays that you can play not so badly in a match and still get sent home."

Meanwhile, Steve Davis is "hanging on for grim death" to his playing career but has vowed not to quit after a hat-trick of first-round exits.

The 51-year-old has developed a resistance to the pain of losing, and was in chirpy mood after his 10-2 defeat to Australian Neil Robertson yesterday.

"I'm not too sure it's about bowing out in style," he said. "I think I've gone past that.

"I'm just hanging on for grim death really. I'm going down the wall slowly with my fingernails.

"You have to take it on the chin because it's not nice to go out there and play c**p. But I've gone through the phase where I think I'm bothered now.

"I have mediocre commitment and occasionally I put in mediocre performances, but I can't complain.”

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