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Mark King thrilled after receiving Northern Ireland Open crown from Alex Higgins' daughter

By Ross Lawson

Published 21/11/2016

Just champion: Mark King celebrates with his family after winning the Northern Ireland Open, his first ranking event title, at the Titanic Exhibition Centre and (below) Lauren Higgins, daughter of Alex, watches on
Just champion: Mark King celebrates with his family after winning the Northern Ireland Open, his first ranking event title, at the Titanic Exhibition Centre and (below) Lauren Higgins, daughter of Alex, watches on
Lauren Higgins, daughter of Alex, watches on
Lauren Higgins, daughter of Alex, watches on

Mark King cast aside 25 years of pain, hurt and disappointment to claim his first ever ranking tournament at the 319th attempt by winning the Coral Northern Ireland Open.

The Romford potter completed an extraordinary comeback in emotional circumstances at Belfast's Titanic Exhibition Centre, coming from 5-1 down to dramatically beat Barry Hawkins in a 9-8 thriller in last night's final.

It was a final frame greeted by tears with confirmation of a long overdue victory as King became the inaugural winner of the Alex Higgins trophy, pulling out a display befitting of the 'Hurricane'.

Higgins' daughter Lauren was in attendance to watch and hand over the trophy.

With a four-frame deficit at the hands of World No.14 Hawkins, King needed to pull something out of the bag, doing so with aplomb in his first final in 14 years.

"The moment my family came running out is something I've been dreaming of since they were born," King said.

"I never thought it would happen and for them to see me winning is everything. My wife, Sally, has stood by me through everything, I was a compulsive gambler and she's been my absolute rock.

"My dad Bill couldn't be here but he's lent me money to get here, I can't thank him enough. This trophy is all I can thank him with. The trophy might have to come to bed with me. Alex (Higgins) was one of the people I looked up to all those years ago."

Hawkins raced into a 5-1 lead, but despite his adversity, King's classy break of 110 led to six successive frames.

Hawkins fought back but a scrappy final frame saw a brilliant red from King seal the win in a tear-shedding moment, with Hawkins left to wonder what may have been.

He said: "I'm disappointed, I was in control of the match and needed to be more ruthless."

Northern Ireland ace Mark Allen said on Twitter: "Two nicer people you couldn't wish to meet on tour. Well done to both on an amazing final and giving Belfast what they deserve."

Watch Northern Ireland Open highlights on Eurosport 1 and Quest, featuring studio analysis from Ronnie O'Sullivan, Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.

Belfast Telegraph

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