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I'll give my all to ensure the game continues to thrive if Ronnie closes curtain on his career, insists Mark Allen

 

By Charlie Bennett

Mark Allen is on a mission to spearhead a new era for snooker after dethroning wantaway superstar Ronnie O'Sullivan at the Dafabet Masters at the weekend.

O'Sullivan, the sport's biggest name, re-iterated his desire to quit and says he is unlikely to compete in April's World Championship - with filming for his TV show set to begin at the same time.

However, Northern Ireland star Allen (31) insists the sport can survive without its main attraction.

And he intends to lead the charge after becoming the first player aside from O'Sullivan and World No.1 Mark Selby to win a Major since December 2015 when he beat Kyren Wilson 10-7 on Sunday night.

"I won't rest on my laurels, hopefully this is the first of many," said Allen. "Snooker will live on after Ronnie. We have had this situation in the past but the game moves on. We appreciate what Ronnie does but if he does not want to play then so be it.

"The likes of Ronnie, (John) Higgins and Selby over the years have made winning these big ones look easy but it is really not.

"I can vouch for that, I was a bundle of nerves out there. But hopefully now I have the experience of getting one over the line I can go on and win more.

"It is a tough sport and there are plenty of people who have never won one so I am very proud."

Allen became Northern Ireland's first Masters champion since Dennis Taylor in 1987 and shut up the critics who doubted whether he could turn undoubted potential into Major trophies.

The Antrim ace celebrated in Belfast on Monday night, playing an exhibition match against compatriot Joe Swail to help raise funds for a struggling snooker club.

And when he landed at Belfast International Airport, he was greeted by family, friends and fans before hoisting the Paul Hunter trophy aloft.

But he admits he doubted whether he could win a Major and hopes his triumph can inspire other players.

"It has been 13 years and you might say you believe in yourself but the longer it goes on, the more you question whether you are ever going to win one of these triple crown events," he added.

"I have won nine tournaments and never got close to a triple crown event. You will always question yourself a bit and then people on social media say you will never win one, you're not good enough.

"The likes of Mark King and Anthony Hamilton won ranking events last year and players have taken confidence from that.

"I think people will look at me the same. Players will think, 'I am as good as him - why can't I win it?'"

"It will spur them on. It is a breath of fresh air for the game. It is good to put Northern Ireland snooker back on the map, it has been a long time."

Belfast Telegraph

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