Top snooker stars including Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams, Mark Selby, John Higgins, Judd Trump and local favourites Mark Allen and Joe Swail are in the line up for next month’s Northern Ireland Open.
Allen faces China’s Niu Zhuang in the first round on the afternoon of the opening day, Monday November 12. Welshman Williams will be defending the title, having beaten Yan Bingtao 9-8 last year in a dramatic final at the Waterfront. He starts the defence of his title against Alfie Burden at 1pm on the Monday.
O’Sullivan takes on Iran’s Soheil Vahedi at 1pm on Tuesday November 13. World number one Selby plays Anthony Hamilton on the Tuesday afternoon while Judd Trump will be up against Matthew Selt on Tuesday at 7pm.
Televised by Eurosport and Quest, it’s the second of the season’s Home Nations series, after last week’s BetVictor English Open. That was won by Stuart Bingham, and if he can go on to win the events in Belfast, Glasgow and Cardiff then he will scoop the massive £1 million bonus. The winner of the title in Belfast will bank £70,000 and receive the Alex Higgins Trophy.
As ever, the local support is sure to be behind Antrim’s Allen, the world number 12. Allen enjoyed the best moment of his career earlier this year when he won the Masters, one of snooker’s elite Triple Crown tournaments.
In the past he has struggled to produce his best form in the Northern Ireland Open, losing in the quarter-finals in 2016 and the last 64 in 2017.
“People from Northern Ireland support their own so I would love to give them something to cheer about,” said Allen. “I feel as if I’m playing well, my game is in good shape. I have to keep practising hard and waiting for the results.
“I can’t wait for the tournament. In the past I have put too much pressure on myself to do well there in front of my home crowd. This will be the third year for the event so hopefully I have got used to that feeling and I can cope with it a bit better this time. It would be a great time for my game to come together.”
Good to see Ronnie in it. His first round opponent, Soheil Vahedi, from Iran, is a quick player, playing an extremely open game. There shouldn’t be too many long safety battles in this match!