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Mark Allen is ready to take on the World


On target: Mark Allen is bidding for a first World title

On target: Mark Allen is bidding for a first World title

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On target: Mark Allen is bidding for a first World title

Mark Allen is confident he can add the biggest prize of them all to his two World Open crowns – despite the presence of a certain Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Allen's two triumphs in China – in 2012 and 2013 – are the highlights won by a talent worthy of the ultimate accolade, the World Championship.

The £1.25million event gets under way at the Crucible in Sheffield on Saturday, O'Sullivan beginning the defence of his title on the opening day with the Ulsterman in first round action on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

Allen acknowledges that O'Sullivan – going for a third successive World title and sixth in total – is the man to beat.

The Antrim cueman said: "He's World champion and deservedly so. He'll be hard to beat but there's also players like Neil Robertson and Mark Selby."

If Allen gets through his first round match, he is likely to come up against Robertson in the last 16, while O'Sullivan is in the other half of the draw.

The first round draw takes place today, with each of the elite top 16 being paired with a qualifier.

"Preparations have gone well," said Allen.

"I can only do my preparation as I've always done and then try my best once I get there.

"Just because you're doing well in practice doesn't mean that will continue once you get there."

Allen will be joined at the Crucible by Dublin's 1997 World champion Ken Doherty, who came through a qualifier, beating Thailand's Dechawat Poomjaeng 10-5.

"This match is the hardest to play, it's so nerve-racking," said Doherty of the final qualifying round.

"Once you've got to the Crucible there is less pressure because at least you've made it and you are part of the tournament."

Several former World champions have fallen in the final qualifying round over the last two days.

"You see the likes of (Mark) Williams and (Graeme) Dott struggling because it means so much," said Doherty.

"We have been there for a long time and we just want to be part of it. I know what it's like to lose in this round."

Doherty secured the 19th Crucible appearance of his career after missing out 12 months ago, losing a decider to Matthew Selt in the final qualifying round.

And while Doherty has carved a niche as a broadcaster, he wants to remain active at the top of the game as a player.

"When you've had success at the Crucible you know what it means," said Doherty.

"You want to be part of the tournament and not sitting on the couch talking about it. That's all right when you're not in the tournament.

"Getting through means so much. I'm over the moon."

The 44-year-old added: "I'll be the oldest player at the Crucible and I never thought I would say that.

"I love the game and nothing beats playing.

"I'm not going to retire like Stephen Hendry, I'm much more like Steve Davis and Jimmy White who just love playing."

Belfast Telegraph