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Northern Ireland Open: Fans salute Mark Allen as he blows away bitter rival Mark Joyce

By Adam McKendry

Published 16/11/2016

On cue: Mark Allen potting his way to a 4-1 victory over Mark Joyce last night at the Titanic Exhibition Centre
On cue: Mark Allen potting his way to a 4-1 victory over Mark Joyce last night at the Titanic Exhibition Centre

Mark Allen delighted the big home crowd with a 4-1 win over Mark Joyce to move into the second round of the Northern Ireland Open — but was less than impressed with the table manners of his English rival.

Topping the bill tonight, meanwhile, is the showdown between the game’s superstar Ronnie O’Sullivan and the legendary Jimmy White.

As for Allen, the Ulsterman had been beaten in four of his five matches against Joyce, with little love lost between the pair, but the seventh seed comfortably came through their contest in the £366,000 event at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast last night.

“I didn’t handle it well, but it was good to have that adrenaline pumping straight away,” Allen said. “Sometimes you come to tournaments like this and it’s flat to start off with, but this time was so different, it’s the most nervous I’ve ever been and I had to show I had bottle.

“I managed to hold myself together, potted some important balls and missed some daft ones too, but the important thing is to have got through.

“We’ve had our run-ins before, words have been said, but at the end of the day I’ve come out of this one with a win and I can move on.”

But the world No.10 knows it’s not going to be a straightforward route to the top, insisting for now that his eyes are being firmly kept off the Alex Higgins trophy.

 “I’m going to have to play a lot better than that to get anywhere near,” he continued. “But I’ve had the first match, it’s out of the way and I can be a bit more settled because of it.

 “I’ve been in good form lately and there’s a big chance for me.

 “But there are six very tough matches ahead of me so I’ve got to be on top of my game.”

During the first frame the Antrim potter, standing at the baulk end of the table, sent a blue down onto the far cushion, which bounced back up into the middle pocket.

Allen, though, had already turned away to look across at Joyce before his effort fluked in following a double kiss off the white. After the ball eventually dropped, he then walked over towards his opponent, complaining he had been in his eye line when shaping up to cue before Allen then moved off around the table.

Joyce swiftly apologised and sat down as Allen completed his break of 52 to win the frame.

While Joyce did level the match at 1-1, Allen went on to take control after edging a tense third frame 66-52.

Meanwhile, Belfast’s Joe Swail slipped to a 4-2 defeat despite a battling display against Dominic Dale.

That was despite Swail hitting breaks of 88 and 65, the two highest of the match, having initially led the contest.

“There’s mixed emotions, I’m not really too sure how to feel at present,” admitted Swail.

 “On the one hand I’m delighted with my game, I’ve missed very little but ultimately I’m going home, admittedly not far, but it’s a tournament I wanted to go further in. In Dominic I’ve had a really tough draw, he’s a top, top player, but that’s what you have to deal with.”

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