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Ronnie O'Sullivan has lift-off and tips Mark Allen to thrill Belfast

By Adam McKendry

Five-time world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan has said home favourite Mark Allen would be a "worthy winner" of the Northern Ireland Open, should he himself not go on to win it.

'The Rocket' eased through his opening match against Welshman David John, 4-1, at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast last night, setting up a clash with the legendary Jimmy White.

But, speaking after his win, O'Sullivan earmarked Allen - who plays tonight - as well as fellow Ulsterman Joe Swail, as a potential winner this week.

"I think they'll be inspired by the crowd," the former world number one said.

"I think Mark Allen is a really, really good player and I think he's playing very well at the moment so he's going to have a lot of belief.

"If I didn't go on to win the tournament I think he would be a worthy winner, and I think it would be great if a home player, someone like him, could win.

"Joe Swail is a fantastic talent and is a dangerous opponent for anyone, and if he gets on a run he's capable of beating anybody.

"But I'd love to win here in Belfast. I've won here before in the Waterfront so it'd be nice to win it again, but the main thing is to enjoy it.

"Keep competing and enjoy playing."

O'Sullivan, playing competitively in Belfast for the first time since his 2008 victory at the Northern Ireland Trophy, also commented on how impressed he was by the crowd at the £366,000 event.

"I love this city, I think it's great that there's a tournament here now and it's really good to be here and playing," he enthused.

"They're a great crowd, they know their snooker here. It's always good to come to places where they have a real good idea of what good snooker is.

"They appreciate it, so it's good to play in front of fans like that."

O'Sullivan put on a masterclass as he rattled off the first two frames with breaks of 131 and 86, before following it up by taking the third frame in fine style as well.

John fought back to take frame four, but O'Sullivan showed his class with the biggest break of the match, 133, to seal victory in the fifth frame.

The World No.8 admitted that he was pleased with how he performed, and that he felt like he was coming back into form after some indifferent recent performances.

"I was happy with that, that was one of my better performances of the season," the 40-year-old said. "I'm pleased with that, yeah.

"I've got a great belief in myself and my game, I just have to find some form.

"Once the form comes then I have the chance of competing in most events I play in."

O'Sullivan who will now take on veteran of the game Whirlwwind White in round two, after the 54-year old made it past another Welshman, Gareth Allen, winning 4-2.

"Every match is hard now. It doesn't matter who you play, you have to play well to win," O'Sullivan said, looking ahead to the rest of the tournament.

Elsewhere, Antrim amateur Jordan Brown is into the second round after he overcame England's Ben Woollaston 4-2 last night.

Brown picked up the only century of the match in the second frame as he raced into a 2-0 lead, before Woollaston took the next two to level proceedings.

But Brown struck back to win the final two frames to secure his place in tomorrow's second round.

World No.5 Shaun Murphy was the shock casualty on day one after he was whitewashed 4-0 by 21-year-old Luca Brecel.

Four-time world champion John Higgins beat Paul Davison 4-0 to extend the Scot's winning run to nine matches.

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