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Victory is the first of many, promises Mark Allen

By Frank Brownlow

Just a few hours before Rory McIlroy moved to the top of the golfing world, another Ulsterman was making his own big breakthrough.

Mark Allen has long been hailed as the potential successor to Northern Ireland sporting legends Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins and Dennis Taylor.

But in seven years as a professional, despite going close on several occasions, the Antrim cueman had never managed to win a ranking tournament. Until now that is.

And Allen did it in style, taking the World Open in Haikou in China with a crushing 10-1 victory over Stephen Lee, moving up to number seven in the world in the process.

The win came at the end of yet another week of controversy for Allen, with the 26-year-old apologising for comments made about his dislike of China.

But he put all that behind him to clinch the title — the perfect boost ahead of next month’s World Championship.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said Allen, who flies home today with the winner’s cheque for £75,000 tucked safely away.

“But once I get home and see my family and friends we’ll have a celebratory drink and it will sink in that I’ve actually done it.

“It’s been a long time coming. Sometimes you question if you’re ever going to win one, especially if you look at the players who have been winning tournaments as I know I’m as good, if not better, as some people who have won.

“So you have to be strong mentally and I think this will be the first of many.

“I played pretty well. I started out well and put Stephen under pressure.

“It’s hard to imagine that you’re going to win so comfortably — it can be difficult when you have a lead as it can be hard to keep concentration.

“But I did that pretty well and didn’t give Stephen a chance to get back in the game and I closed the match out very well,” said Allen after the most one-sided ranking final since Stephen Maguire beat David Gray 10-1 at the 2004 UK Championship.

“I’ll be back to defend my title — I’ll always look forward to playing in front of a Chinese crowd and they seem to enjoy watching me,” said Allen, who returns for the China Open later this month.

“I don’t really enjoy the travelling but that’s part and parcel of being a professional,” added Allen, who has recently fought a high-profile battle with depression.

“I’m not going to get carried away. But I’ll enjoy this one.

“I don’t think I have anything to worry about any more — the biggest worry I had was winning this tournament.”

FRAME SCORES: Mark Allen 10 Stephen Lee 1: 66-55, 104 (104)-0, 59 (50)-26, 127 (127)-7, 59 (53)-2, 55 (55)-68 (67), 72 (43)-39, 76 (39)-67 (49), 123 (123)-0, 69-18, 105 (104)-19.

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