Written By: Ben Chamberlin
Belfast’s Mark Allen is considered as not just one of the greatest snooker players to come out of Northern Ireland, but one the best of his generation in his sport.
The Pistol is just about to embark on an important period in the snooker calendar with the three Triple Crown tournaments set to arrive over the next five months.
Although the world number seven has yet to win a trophy so far this season, he has shown glimpses of form as he reached the semi-final of the International Championship in Daqing, losing to Shaun Murphy 9-6, while he also advanced through to the last four of the English Open in Crawley before being defeated 6-5 by the eventual winner Mark Selby in a tight affair.
The UK Championship, Masters and World Championship are the three tournaments in snooker which define a career and Allen will be desperate for more success in those events. The Northern Irishman has been to the final twice at the UK Championship, including in 2018 when he lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final. His best run at the World Championship came very early into his career when he made it to the last four in 2009.
Allen Continues to Set Records as Greatest Ever Ulster Snooker Player
Allen, who won the World Amateur Championship in 2004, has come out on top in 11 tournaments since turning a professional, five of which have been ranking events. His biggest success though was in the Masters in 2018. The invitational event involves the top 16 players in the world and is part of the Triple Crown in the sport, along with the UK Championship and World Championship.
As of the 17th November, Allen has recorded 437 centuries in his career in events sanctioned by World Snooker in the sport. He is 12th in the all-time list which is led by Ronnie O’Sullivan with an incredible 1024 centuries. Allen is the highest Ulsterman on that table by some distance though, as the next best is Joe Swail who is 58th with 124 ton breaks.
Snooker has a rich history in Northern Ireland, and even to this day it attracts some of the biggest names to have played the game such as Jimmy White in exhibitions. Although he doesn’t have the two World Championships to match the great Alex Higgins at this stage, Allen can stake a strong claim for being Ulster’s most successful snooker player. Given the success O’Sullivan, Mark Williams and John Higgins have had in recent years, the best may yet still to come.
Pistol Looking to Join Elusive Masters List
Since the Masters were inaugurated in 1975, there have been only nine multiple winners of the tournament. Higgins is one of those players as he was successful in 1978 and 1981. Allen will be hoping to add his name that list in January when the tournament begins from the Alexandra Palace in London.
On November 21st, Allen is 14-1 with Betway to win the Masters for a second time. He went into the event as the number one seed in 2019 but was surprisingly beaten in the first round 6-5 by Luca Brecel. When he lifted the trophy in 2018, he had victories over O’Sullivan, Higgins and Kyren Wilson in what was an impressive week from the Pistol.
Maiden World Championship the Primary Aim Now in His Career
The World Championship is the biggest prize in snooker. Allen has been tipped to be a future winner of the tournament ever since he broke onto the professional circuit. Unfortunately for the Pistol, he has not been able to build upon his semi-final appearance 10 years ago.
Timing is everything for a snooker player and they aim to peak in April so they are at their best for the annual tournament which is at the very end of the calendar. To prevail in the World Championship, the winner has to survive 17 days at the event in Sheffield, with the final spanning across three days.
Allen was beaten in the opening round by qualifier Zhou Yuelong in 2019 so he will be hoping for a much better run at the Crucible when he returns the Steel City at the end of the season bidding to become only the third Ulster player in a 93-year history to lift the title, behind 1985 world champion Dennis Taylor and Higgins.