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Mark Allen gets a boost as he begins Northern Ireland title bid

On cue: Mark Allen is aiming for glory in Belfast
On cue: Mark Allen is aiming for glory in Belfast

By Frank Brownlow

Home favourite Mark Allen enters the fray at the Northern Ireland Open at the Waterfront Hall tomorrow boosted by a great victory for his pal and practice partner Jordan Brown.

Brown beat the experienced James Wattana 4-2 and Allen should join his fellow Antrim cueman in the last-64 by defeating Sam Craigie this afternoon in the £405,000 showpiece event.

Ronnie O'Sullivan starts his campaign tomorrow night, with world champion Judd Trump - defending the Alex Higgins Trophy - also in action today.

Local amateur Declan Lavery was beaten 4-0 by Stephen Maguire, while London-born Northern Ireland international Gerard Greene went down 4-1 to Marco Fu.

But Dublin's experienced former world champion Ken Doherty had a shock 4-2 win over Michael Georgiou.

Mark Selby remained on course for the £1m bonus for the winner of all four Home Nations events - the three-time world champion won the English Open earlier this season - with a 4-2 success over Xu Si.

Four-time world champion John Higgins is also through to the second round after a 4-2 win over Chang Bingyu.

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The World No.5 triumphed comfortably to set up a second-round tie with either Riley Parsons or Kacper Filipiak.

There were also wins for Ali Carter, Matthew Stevens and rising star Thepchaiya Un-Noon, who beat former NI Open champion Mark King 4-2.

Barry Hawkins was one of the last men into the second round at the conclusion of day one's action after he endured a seven-frame thriller with Eden Sharav, eventually edging the clash 4-3.

After looking home and dry, Hawkins saw Sharav pull it back to a deciding frame, which was nip-and-tuck, only for the World No.11 to scrape through with a gutsy display.

There have been some early casualties in Belfast, with World No.10 David Gilbert and World No.16 Ding Junhui the two biggest shock eliminations on day one of the tournament.

Gilbert was knocked out after a mammoth final frame against Anthony Hamilton, beaten 4-3, while former World No.1 Ding was eliminated by England's David Lilley, the World No.120, losing 4-2 in the afternoon session at the Waterfront Hall.

There were further shocks in Belfast as Ryan Day, Xiao Guodong and Lyu Haotian all fell at the first hurdle, with Day defeated 4-1 by Harvey Chandler, Guodong beaten 4-2 by Alexander Ursenbacher, and Haotian lost 4-1 to countryman Tian Pengfei.

Further upsets saw Tom Ford and Hossein Vafaei both whitewashed 4-0 in their first round clashes with Andrew Higginson and Si Jiahui respectively, while Anthony McGill was knocked out by Robbie Williams, 4-1.

There were no such worries for other big names such as Stephen Maguire, who recorded a 4-0 whitewash of Declan Lavery, or Ali Carter, who defeated Robert Milkins 4-1, while Yan Bingtao had to battle to see off Andy Hicks 4-2.

Belfast Telegraph

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