Dennis Taylor believes the 25th anniversary of his world title triumph could be marked in the best possible way — with a Northern Ireland world champion.
Taylor won the title in 1985 at the Crucible with a black ball victory over Steve Davis that has become the stuff of legend.
The Coalisland cueman’s success came just three years after Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins secured his second world title, but since that golden era the game’s ultimate prize has not been brought back to Ulster.
But Taylor feels Antrim’s Mark Allen could make the big breakthrough this time around.
Allen reached the semi-finals last year, losing to eventual champion John Higgins after knocking out defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, and starts his first round match against Leicester’s Tom Ford today, with the concluding session starting tomorrow morning.
And Taylor fancies the 24-year-old’s chances of going all the way to the title.
“It’s great to see Mark Allen doing so well. He’s a brilliant player. There’s every chance he could win the world championship — he’s that good.
“Mark reached the semi-finals last year and he has beaten all the top players so if he can maintain that consistency he can win the world title.
“Mark has a chance — he’s not afraid of anyone.
“And if he could win it, it would be a great boost for the game back home,” he added.
But Taylor acknowledged that Allen will face some very tough opposition — particularly three-times champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.
“When Ronnie is at the table, other players stay around to watch him. It’s a bit like golf — all the players watch Tiger Woods.
“Ronnie is the only player I have used the word ‘genius’ for. People talk about Alex Higgins and Jimmy White, and there’s no doubt they are both great natural talents. But Ronnie is a league above those two — he is a genius on the table.
“I would have Stephen Hendry as the greatest ever player, but Ronnie could still overtake him. He would have to win more world titles to do that but in terms of natural ability he’s the best there has ever been.
“Overall I would have Hendry as all time number one, Davis number two and Ronnie three — but Ronnie could overtake those two.
“It would be hard to bet against Ronnie for the world title but 17 days is a long time for him to maintain his focus. When he is in the right frame of mind he is unstoppable.
“But 17 days is a long time to maintain concentration and that’s why someone like John Higgins is in with a great shout again.
“But there are a lot of other players who could win it.
“Ding Junhui found a bit of form to win the UK Championship and it would be great for the game if a Chinese player won it,” added Taylor, part of the BBC’s commentary team at the tournament which started today.
“I enjoy commentating — it’s the next best thing to playing. I started commentating even when I was still playing — but you can’t beat playing,” he said.
“It’s great to still be involved in the game. Obviously I’ve played all the top players over the years and
it’s great seeing good young players coming through. And it means I have the best seat in the house from which to watch them.
“I’m also playing plenty of golf and I’m going to be doing some shows with Steve Davis for the 25th anniversary of our final so the cue is out again.
“There’s talk of a world seniors event so I might have a go at that.”
And Taylor feels new snooker supremo Barry Hearn is definitely the man to help the game regain some of the popularity it enjoyed in its 1980s heyday.
He said: “Barry will help to get snooker back on track again. It got a little bit stale. The game wasn’t going forward.
“Barry will certainly change some things in the game but it will come down to what the television companies want.”
Another final like 1985 would do for starters.