Less than 24 hours after winning snooker’s Masters Mark Allen was due back in the Province to take part in an exhibition match to raise funds for a struggling snooker club on the Shankill Road.
Last night he had toasted his victory at the Alexandra Palace with friends from 147 snooker club in Antrim – a club which the newly crowned champion has been a member of since it was formed in 1999.
Speaking to the News Letter this morning, manager of 147 club, Rab Fee said: “There’s a few sore heads this morning. We were with Mark at the after party and a few drinks were consumed. Around 20 from our club were over supporting him.”
The Antrim man beat Kyren Wilson 10-7 on Sunday night to become the first Northern Irishman to win the Masters since Dennis Taylor in 1987.
Mr Fee said: “I still don’t think it’s kicked in with him yet that he’s won the Masters.
“We went back with him to the Ally Pally this morning to pick up his cue and his trophy. You could hardly lift the thing it was that heavy.”
Mr Fee recalled the snooker champion’s early days on the green baize: “I’ve known Mark for well over 20 years. Before 147 opened we all played at the Riverside. Whenever Mark started playing he used to come in with his dad.
“It didn’t take him long clicking onto the game. I beat him the odd time back then but nobody can get near him now. I know Alex Higgins won the Worlds’, but standardwise I think Mark is definitely head and shoulders above both him and Dennis Taylor.
“He’s in the club every day practising when he’s at home. The only time he’s not there is when he’s away at tournaments.
“As a person he’s 100%, an absolute gentleman. A lot of ones on TV think he’s arrogant, but he’s not one bit. He says what he thinks and a lot of people don’t like that.
“He wears his heart on his sleeve, he’ll never change.”
Last night, Mark was performing an exhibition match in Trinity Hall snooker club on the Shankill Road along with Joe Swail.
Mr Fee said: “He’s gone from winning two hundred grand to doing an exhibition for free. Most ones would have cancelled that, but not Mark. That’s the sort of him.”
Speaking ahead of the exhibition, Davy Mitchell, owner of the Trinity Hall club, said: “Ticket sales from the exhibition have already helped to sort out the heating.
“It’s fair to say the club has been struggling and the fact it was so cold was a big factor in people not using the club.
“We’re really grateful to Mark and Joe Swail for coming to us for this exhibition.”
“We’re looking forward to welcoming the Masters champion. I’m sure he’ll get a warm reception.”
At the Top of the Town bar in Antrim last night, a large crowd gathered to watch Mark Allen clinch the Masters title.
Bar owner Greig McAfee said: “It was a fantastic night.
“It was the first time we’ve had people in for snooker, it really caught everyone in the town’s imagination.
“Champagne was getting sprayed everywhere and they were singing the famous Will Grigg’s On Fire song using Mark’s name instead.
“A couple of his old schoolmates and close friends were here including John O’Reilly who organised the fanzone. They were quite tearful.”
Mark Allen was quick to change into his Northern Ireland football shirt to celebrate his victory.
And the national team was quick to congratulate him on Twitter via its official account: “And he’s done it! Our very own Mark Allen has won the 2018 Masters final! Congratulations @pistol147 what a performance! #GAWA”
He also received a message of congratulations from the last man from Northern Ireland to win the Masters.
Dennis Taylor wrote: “Congratulations to Mark Allen. Delighted not only for him but all his family and friends. A class act as his opponent is.”