Mark Allen wins the 2022 Northern Ireland Open … again!

Mark Allen successfully defended the Northern Ireland Open title in Belfast yesterday. He best Zhou Yuelong by 9-4 from 1-4 down.

Congratulations Mark Allen!

Here is the report by WST:

Allen Triumphs Again In Belfast

Home hero Mark Allen defended his BetVictor Northern Ireland Open crown in front of a rapturous Waterfront Hall crowd in Belfast, defeating Zhou Yuelong 9-4 in the final.

Northern Irishman Allen had openly admitted to struggling with the pressure of playing in his home event prior to last year. However, having never previously reached the semi-finals, he made a 147 on his way to a maiden final in 2021. Allen then defeated John Higgins 9-8 in a thrilling encounter to land the title.

Allen has now won 14 consecutive matches in this event and tonight’s victory sees him pick up the seventh ranking title of his career. The 36-year-old retains the Alex Higgins Trophy and scoops a top prize of £80,000. Allen also clinches the last remaining place in the upcoming Champion of Champions, an event he missed 12 months ago due to personal reasons.

Allen put in the work away from the table over the summer and it is paying dividends on the baize. He was runner-up in the recent British Open to Ryan Day and has now landed his first title of the campaign. Allen has lost nearly five stone in a bid to get fitter, which was inspired by a chat with World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan after he lost to him at the Crucible.

The Pistol has negotiated a perilous path to this year’s final, beating the likes of Mark Williams and Neil Robertson along the way. He looked in trouble this afternoon when he trailed 4-1, but rallied to end the session level at 4-4.

China’s former World Cup winner Zhou will be left to rue not pressing on in the afternoon session, but can reflect positively on a week which has seen him reach his third ranking final. The 24-year-old was runner-up at the 2020 Shoot Out and the 2020 European Masters. Despite not landing that first ranking title, he leaves with the consolation of £35,000.

Allen eased to victory this evening, carrying the momentum from his great escape in the afternoon. After taking a 28-minute first frame, where he constructed a break of 53, he powered to the finish.

The 2018 Masters champion crafted breaks of 85, 50, 51 to move to the verge of victory. Allen then fired in a stunning break of 109 to get over the line, clearing the table to take his eighth consecutive frame and sending a sold out crowd wild.

It is a very proud moment. I’ve won two Northern Ireland Open titles. I never ever thought I would say that,” said Antrim’s Allen.

It is crazy. I didn’t think this moment would come. It is hard to win individual matches, so I just wanted to come here and make a good account of myself as defending champion. I wanted to fight for everything, not give up and make it as hard as possible for my opponent.

I felt that if I could nick the eighth frame to go 4-4, he would really struggle mentally. I think he lost it in that session rather than me winning it. I felt he would rue his missed chances. After hanging on and getting out 4-4, I felt like I’d won.

The walk on this evening felt like a football arena. The crowd singing Sweet Caroline didn’t feel like a snooker match. It is something I could get used to, that was very special. I’ve always said I am a proud Northern Irishman, I want to do it for the fans as well as myself and my family. I think I am starting to repay them for the years of anguish I’ve gave them here.”

Mark played very well after a slow start and is a deserving winner. The crowd supported him through and through, as you would expect. They applauded Zhou good shots as well, but they also applauded and shouted when he missed, especially in the evening. It was probably more to encourage Mark Allen than anything else but it must have been hard for his young opponent who struggled more and more as the match progressed. That wasn’t nice to watch and I hope that it won’t have lasting effects on his confidence. The way he played this week, Zhou showed that he has the game to be a winner, but, right now, he probably doesn’t have the confidence he needs to actually do it. What happened yesterday will not help.

When it was obvious the the match was slipping away from Zhou, Ronnie suggested that instead of going into his shell, he should go all out attack a, clearly, the more cautious approach wasn’t getting him anywhere. That’s probably true, but it’s not easy to do if it’s not in the person’s nature to react that way.

It was nice to see Mark Allen looking well, physically and mentally and enjoying the moment with his family.

3 thoughts on “Mark Allen wins the 2022 Northern Ireland Open … again!

  1. Regarding Cloth its the same to both players and you have to adapt Condition’s should vary. But pockets marking the balls is ridiculous even the commentators not heard of that before

  2. Mark Allen showed his experience, and as he said, won the match in the first session by ‘escaping’ to 4-4. Zhou does have a history of getting stuck in longer matches, not just the 9-0 but also a World Championship match where he led 9-7 but lost 13-9, losing 6 straight frames in the final session. There is a danger that Zhou might become a player who loses lots of semi-finals and finals. Ronnie clearly doesn’t rate him as a tournament winner. After his semi-final, Zhou said he couldn’t afford to miss easy balls in the final. Unfortunately he didn’t follow that up.

    Overall the tournament was a success, well-supported in a decent venue, conveniently located in the town centre.

    However, there are a few worries:
    (1) Table conditions weren’t always satisfactory. There were several bad sessions, particularly with the older cloths. There was one bizarre match where the balls had to be exchanged 8 times, due to some damage caused by the pockets. Pockets differed in their tightness. Balls often drifted or rolled off.
    (2) Poor refereeing. I see this as an increasing issue, and I detect some players feel this as well. Apart from some reported events (Jimmy White’s altercation, Zhou’s warning for slow play, Lyu Haotian’s incorrect foul which cost him a frame in the Q-final), we’ve seen referees dropping balls, calling incorrect scores, generally getting in the way or trying to impose themselves. I don’t like the way some referees seem overly friendly with some players – this will inevitably create an imbalance.
    (3) Frequent incorrect camera angles. Too often they focus on the object ball with side angle cameras, missing completely the course of the white. Also many wrong selections (wrong pocket) or late cuts. It appears like whoever is calling the pictures doesn’t know snooker.

    All these are addressable, if the will is there. We hope for a step forward in cloth technology, as there has been in chalk technology.

    One positive thing is Eurosport’s abandonment of the non-Chinese interview policy. It’s good for the game to hear international voices, and the interviews will improve in quality given practice. To hear about some of the struggles faced by players like Zhou Yuelong is an important and absorbing story.

    • Poor refereeing.

      Yes, like in the Selby/Craigie match when the ref called a foul on Sam for not hitting the yellow, when he absolutely did. Even Mark thought so, but the ref had no interest in addressing her (wrong) decision. Ridiculous.

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