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Doherty puts feud aside to hail 'prolific' Allen

By Steven Beacom

Mark Allen and Ken Doherty have a bit of history, but that hasn't stopped the classy Dubliner from hailing the qualities of the Ulsterman and predicting that he could become a world champion one day.

Northern Ireland heroes Alex Higgins (1972 and 1982) and Dennis Taylor (1985) are revered for claiming world title glory, though Doherty remains the last Irishman, in 1997, to be successful at the Crucible.

It was a decade later, at the Aberdeen Grand Prix, that Doherty branded Allen "a disgrace", insisting that the young Antrim ace needed to "grow up" after the pair were involved in a match in which the referee told Allen that he would receive an official warning if he did not curb his behaviour. In reply, Allen stated that Doherty was a bad loser.

Regardless of all that, Doherty clearly rates Allen's ability.

"Mark is a great player. I think he has the potential to be a future world champion," says the man from Dublin.

"I'm sure he was disappointed with the way he played at the last World Championships and going out in the first round, but he has all the attributes to win at the Crucible one day.

"He is a prolific winner on the circuit and is one of the top players in the world who is not afraid of beating anyone.

"He has a lot of confidence in his ability, which is a good thing, and I think he can do a lot of damage in the next five or 10 years."

Some say that Allen's controversial comments about China, its players as well as Barry Hearn's running of the game have not helped snooker's image.

Doherty, though, defends Allen's right to speak his mind.

"It's maybe not good to say silly things about China, but there is no harm for him to express himself and I would encourage that," adds Ken.

"Everyone talks today about where the characters in snooker have gone but he's a character – there is no doubt about that."

Another character back on the pro circuit is Belfast man Joe Swail, who played against Doherty in the qualifying for the China-based Wuxi Classic tournament on Wednesday, with the latter running out a 5-2 winner.

"Joe is a good pal of mine. We sort of grew up playing together from the Under-16s to the professional ranks. It's great to see him back on the main tour," said Doherty.

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