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Trump plays the generation game as Rocket lifts off

 

Eyes down: Judd Trump had a comfortable path into today’s Northern Ireland Open semi-finals at the Waterfront Hall
Eyes down: Judd Trump had a comfortable path into today’s Northern Ireland Open semi-finals at the Waterfront Hall

By Frank Brownlow

Judd Trump and John Higgins will clash in an intriguing match-up of snooker's generation game at the Waterfront Hall in the semi-finals of the 19.com Northern Ireland Open, while Ronnie O'Sullivan booked his place in the last-four with a 5-1 win over Shaun Murphy.

Current world champion Trump will start favourite against four-time Crucible kingpin Higgins but the 44-year-old Scot showed last night that he is still a match for the very best with a dramatic 5-4 victory over three-time world champion Mark Selby in the £405,000 - £70,000 to the winner - showpiece event.

Defending champion Trump hammered Anthony Hamilton 5-1 and is looking good for a successful defence of the Alex Higgins Trophy, which he won with a 9-7 victory over the Rocket in last year's Belfast final - a decider that could be repeated tomorrow and what a shoot-out that would be.

"I really enjoy this tournament, particularly when it gets to the latter stages," said Trump.

The World No.1 won the first frame with an excellent 106 break and added the next before underdog Hamilton pulled one back.

Trump took the next three frames, completing his victory with a fine break of 105 in the final frame.

The 30-year-old Englishman has already won two events this season - the International Championship and the World Open - and he lost to Neil Robertson in last week's Champion of Champions event at Coventry's Ricoh Arena.

Having won the English Open earlier this season, Selby's departure robs him of the chance to collect the £1m bonus for winning all four Home Nations tournaments - which include next month's Scottish Open and the Welsh Open in February.

Home favourite Mark Allen has vowed to bounce back from his stunning 4-3 last 16 defeat to Alexander Ursenbacher.

"I don't have many complaints," said Allen.

"It's the best I've felt playing here ­- I've just been beaten by someone who was playing very well."

This year's Northern Ireland Open has seen a record number of people flock to the Waterfront Hall with more tickets sold than ever before.

In particular, tickets for tomorrow's final are selling fast. The showpiece clash will take place over two sessions at 1pm and 7pm in a best of 17 match.

World Snooker Event Director Katie Oldfield said: "We have been thrilled to see the people of Belfast turn out in unprecedented numbers to support this fantastic tournament. The Waterfront Hall has become synonymous with this event and it produces a truly unique atmosphere.

"We anticipate that there is every chance (tomorrow's) final could sell out.

"I would advise fans to make sure they book quickly to avoid disappointment."

Belfast is all set for a Sunday snooker spectacular - and how appropriate that the Alex Higgins Trophy awaits the winner.

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