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Mark Allen: Winning Northern Ireland Open would mean the World to me

By Ross Lawson

Mark Allen believes winning the Coral Northern Ireland Open this week would rank among his best tournament performances, but insists there is still a long way to go before thinking about lifting the Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins Trophy.

The World No.10 eased into the last 32 with a 4-2 win over Michael Georgiou with the home fans once again making plenty of noise in Belfast's Titanic Exhibition Centre, on a day when John Higgins hit a magical 147 maximum break.

It's a fanbase which Allen admits comes with its own added pressures this week, a first tournament in Northern Ireland for almost a decade adding to the expectations surrounding his appearance in Belfast.

And Allen feels a win in front of a supportive home crowd in the £366,000 event would be something special, already hearing the roar during Tuesday night's fierce victory over bitter rival Mark Joyce in the first round.

"It would mean everything to me - to do it in front of the home fans would be very special," he said.

"For me this competition is almost like a second World Championship, and that in itself comes with pressure.

"I like performing in front of my friends and family, I don't feel like I have anything to prove like you do with certain crowds.

"But as a whole I'm just happy that I get a chance to play in Belfast, it's what snooker deserves and if I can give them something to celebrate come Sunday evening then so be it."

Despite the comfortable scoreline, Allen had things far from his own way against Georgiou.

The man ranked No.106 in the world took the first frame in a cagey start by both players, Allen in particular taking time to find his feet.

And an open second frame proved particularly crucial, Allen taking the spoils despite Georgiou holding the edge - a frame which would have seen him go 2-0 up.

But the home favourite roared his way back, slowly finding form before finishing with a flourish, his break of 109 the highest of the match.

The 30-year-old added: "Even though I didn't play my best until close to the end, I felt comfortable. The second frame was so crucial.

"He started well and I was a bit edgy which I always am at the start of a match, and if I'd gone 2-0 down it would have been very difficult to come back.

"Michael is a very good player and someone I rate very highly, so while 2-0 wouldn't have been insurmountable, it would have been a lot harder," he said.

Allen has enjoyed a profitable season so far, reaching the semi-finals in both the Champion of Champions and China's International Championship before heading to Belfast.

And while his time on the baize has yet to hit its peak this week, confidence is high that slowly but surely his best is coming to the fore.

"I've been scoring well lately, but I hadn't really done that in the first half of this match and the whole of the first round," added the Antrim potter.

"I didn't play my best but didn't miss too much towards the end and that's what the top players do, whatever they need to win.

"There are a lot of top players in the competition so I'll have to play well whoever I'm up against and Robin Hull (today's last-32 opponent) is no different."

• Watch the Northern Ireland Open live on Eurosport 1 and Quest, featuring daily studio analysis from Ronnie O'Sullivan, Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.

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