Joe Allen aims high after lifting Players Championship crown
Mark Allen held his nerve in a tense battle to beat Ricky Walden 10-6 in the final of the Players Championship in Manchester and seal his third ranking event title and first in the United Kingdom.
The 30-year-old became the first Northern Irishman to win a ranking event in the UK since Dennis Taylor lifted the World crown in 1985.
It's a huge confidence boost for the Antrim man ahead of the World Championships in Sheffield next month. And it's also the first title the Ulsterman has won in Europe following World Opens in China in 2012 and 2013.
A thrilled Allen, who bravely battled depression earlier in his career, said: "From 3-1 down I found a bit of form. I won six frames on the spin and got my confidence back.
"But I was very nervous. I just wanted to get out there and get the job done. It means so much to me.
"I just want to win tournaments. I think I am good enough to compete at the highest level. I just haven't showed it yet."
Allen, who was congratulated by his wife Kyla after the stunning win, set up his victory by winning five successive frames to lead 6-3 going into the evening session and hit back strongly to take the last three frames after Englishman Walden had fought back from 7-3 to 7-6.
Now ranked sixth in the world, 'The Pistol' overcame 2005 World champion Shaun Murphy in the semi-final and sealed the £100,000 winner's prize with breaks of 61 and 67 in the final's last two frames.
World No.10 Walden, 33, who beat Barry Hawkins 6-3 in his semi-final, ensured a tense encounter but was edged out in the crucial 14th and 15th frames after clawing his way back to 7-6 and was never at his best.
Allen fought back from 3-1 down in the first session to win five successive frames and lead 6-3 going into the evening thanks to four half-century breaks.
He increased his lead to 7-3 with breaks of 52 and 22 in the evening's first session but Walden took the next three frames to put the pressure back on Allen.
Having lost six frames on the bounce, Walden stopped the rot with a break of 62 to reduce the deficit to 7-4. He then made a superb break of 92 to make it 7-5 and edged to within one frame of Allen at 7-6 after holding his nerve to clear up and punish his opponent for missing a brown.
The 14th frame was an equally tense affair that also lasted more than half an hour. Walden required snookers with the score 63-28 but Allen potted a long brown and then fluked the blue to end his three-frame losing streak.
He took control of the 15th frame thanks to an excellent break of 61 after taking to the table with nothing much on and strode towards victory with a 67 break in the final frame - and it proved enough.