Exactly a week ago Mark Allen was beaten by Ronnie O’Sullivan in the UK Championship final at the Barbican Centre in York, and today he will play Shaun Murphy in the Scottish Open final at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow. A cool £170,000 richer for having duked it in York, O’Sullivan withdrew from the Glasgow event, preferring to watch the action from the Eurosport commentary booth alongside fellow snooker legends Jimmy White (who still plays a bit) and Neal Foulds (who does not). By contrast, Allen chose to compete in Glasgow but, his £75,000 UK Championship runner’s-up cheque burning a hole in his back pocket, by his own admission hit the city’s pubs each evening. His attitude appeared to be: win or lose, this week is gonna be fun.
Nonetheless, he won his first five matches easily enough, beating Liang Wenbo (world No29) 4-2, Chen Feilong (No114) 4-1, Yuan Sijun (No68) 4-1, Graeme Dott (No23) 4-2 and Alfie Burden (No95) 5-0 to reach the semi-final stage. There, yesterday, he met Daniel Wells (No66), and quickly went 4-0 down in a best-of-11 contest.
Rumour has it that Stephen Maguire, the hard-livin’ Glaswegian world No14 whom Allen had beaten 6-1 in their quarter-final match in York just over a week ago, and who knows the best Glasgow watering holes in which to sink a few pints of heavy, had on Friday night been doing just that – with Allen. It certainly looked like it on Saturday. Allen played those first four frames – it has to be said – appallingly. Wells was not performing particularly well either, but the knackered-looking Allen was unable to compile a break of more than 24 and yawned often on the many occasions when an unforced error sent him back to his armchair.
In the mid-session interval he had what he later described as “a couple of drinks” – and returned a changed man. Via breaks of 55, 59, 79, 106 and 48, he cruised back to 5-5, facing a sudden-death frame to earn or forfeit a place in today’s final. Wells, having never appeared in a ranking semi-final before, despite having turned pro 10 years ago, looked utterly woebegone. Nine minutes later he was trudging out of the arena, having watched Allen compile a rapid and effortless 129 clearance to win frame and match.
“I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been hung-over for most of my matches this week,” a sheepish Allen told O’Sullivan, White and Foulds in the Eurosport studio immediately afterwards, “so I don’t really deserve to be in the final.”
“My advice is to have two or three pints tonight,” White replied, “but don’t have none [double negative used correctly].”
“Well, I may as well go out and have a good time tonight,” Allen countered, name-checking his current favourite tipple, strawberry and lime flavoured Kopparberg cider, a fruity little number that slides down very nicely thank you but, at 4.0 per cent alcohol by volume, packs a bit of a punch.
Will Allen win today? Yes, punchily.