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Mark Allen: I'm the best player to come out of Northern Ireland

 

By Robert Jones

Mark Allen will put his Dafabet Masters crown on the line when he kicks off his title defence at Alexandra Palace on Sunday.

And the Antrim cueman will head to London clearly not short of confidence and in red-hot form.

The Pistol, no stranger to shooting from the lip, goes into snooker's unofficial 'major' proclaiming that he is the "best snooker player that has ever come from Northern Ireland".

That is quite the boast with Alex Higgins having won the World Championship in 1972 and 1982, while, of course, Dennis Taylor won 'that' final against Steve Davis back in 1985.

Allen won the Masters title for the first time a year ago, beating Kyren Wilson in the final.

He went on to have the best year of his career in 2018, winning the International Championship and Scottish Open ranking events as well as reaching the final of the UK Championship, so his confident proclamations are not without some substance.

The 32-year-old has been drawn against Belgium's Luca Brecel in the opening match at Alexandra Palace on January 13 at 1pm.

World No.6 Allen feels that, given his recent success, he deserves to be considered among the best ever players from this country.

"I don't want to speak out of turn, but I feel like I am the best snooker player that has ever come from Northern Ireland, although perhaps not the best winner yet," he said.

"Obviously Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor have won three world titles between them. In my mind, if I want to get in the conversation I have to win the World Championship.

"If I do that, then perhaps I will deserve to be talked about in the same league as them."

The Masters, although offering up no ranking points, is one of the three titles that all the players want, and is jam-packed with talent throughout the draw.

"I've got to deal with the tag of being defending champion and whenever I have had it before I have done reasonably well," said Allen.

"I don't see why it should be any different this time just because it is the Masters.

"There is a lot of pressure with the Masters because it is an elite tournament, but I am looking forward to it.

"Everyone in the top 16 can play to a really high level.

"Ronnie O'Sullivan aside - because he is just so talented - the difference is mental. They can all go and beat each other on any given day.

"Players like Mark Selby and Mark Williams do it more consistently because they are so strong mentally.

"The mind is so important in elite sport."

Other top stars in the field at the Dafabet Masters, which runs from January 13 to 20, include Ronnie O'Sullivan, Mark Selby, Mark Williams, John Higgins and Judd Trump.

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