Mark Allen and Ronnie O’Sullivan are among a star-studded line-up for this month’s Northern Ireland Open snooker world ranking event in Belfast.
The tournament runs from November 20 to 26 at the Belfast Waterfront and will feature 128 players battling for the £70,000 top prize and the Alex Higgins Trophy.
The dates for first round matches for several of the top players have already been confirmed, as follows:
Monday November 20
Shaun Murphy (afternoon session)
Neil Robertson (afternoon session)
Mark Allen (evening session)
Joe Swail (evening session)
Tuesday November 21
John Higgins (afternoon session)
Judd Trump (afternoon session)
Ronnie O’Sullivan (evening session)
Other stars in the field include Jimmy White and defending champion Mark King. The full draw and format will be announced shortly.
Antrim’s Allen admits he need to deal with the pressure of playing in front of his local crowd, as he will lead the home charge alongside Belfast’s Joe Swail.
Last year, Allen won four matches to reach the quarter-finals before losing to Anthony Hamilton. But the world number 11 feels he needs a different mindset this time to give himself a chance of going all the way to the trophy.
“To be completely honest, I hated every minute of it last year,” said 31-year-old Allen. “I thought I would thrive in the atmosphere, which was unbelievable, but I just didn’t handle it at all well. I hope, after last year’s experience, I will be able to deal with it better this year.
“I’d never felt pressure like it before. I pressured myself because I wanted to play well for the people of Northern Ireland. In most snooker tournaments you are playing for yourself and I need to get into that mindset. It is quite selfish, but thinking the way I did was off-putting last year.
“I need to do it for myself. If I was to win the Northern Ireland Open it would mean so much to me and the knock on effect of having more coverage back home and boosting the profile of the sport would be great. However, all those things should be secondary to snooker matches. Unfortunately last year they weren’t.
“I have to say that I do have great memories of playing in Belfast. I played my first ever professional tournament at the Waterfront (the 2005 Northern Ireland Trophy) and had a couple of brilliant wins over Steve Davis and John Higgins, before losing to Stephen Hendry. It was a really good experience straight off the bat. One minute you are turning professional and the next you are suddenly thrust on to the biggest stage against the best players.”
The Northern Ireland Open will be the second of the season’s Home Nations events, and a player winning all four will bank an extra £1 million bonus. Ronnie O’Sullivan won the English Open so he’s a quarter of the way to this unprecedented bonus and he will resume the chase in Belfast.
Tickets for the Northern Ireland Open are on sale now and start at just £10. With all 128 players in action over the first two days, it’s an incredible chance to see top class live sport.
For details CLICK HERE or call 028 9033 4455