Allen and O’Neill bring joy to sports fans across NI

Morning View
Morning View

It was a good day for Northern Ireland sport yesterday.

Mark Allen won one of snooker’s biggest titles, the Masters.

And the Northern Ireland football team seems to have held on to its popular and successful manager Michael O’Neill.

Allen is the first person from Northern Ireland to win the Masters since Dennis Taylor did so in 1987.

His victory recalls the golden age for Ulster snooker players in the 1980s, when both Alex Higgins and Taylor won the Masters and also one of the other big titles in the sport, the World Championships.

Allen was back in Northern Ireland yesterday to raise money for a struggling snooker club on the Shankill Road, a function that he did not abandon despite the “sore heads” caused by his victory party on Sunday night.

Michael O’Neill, meanwhile, has rebuffed the Scottish Football Association, which wanted him to be the new Scotland manager.

He would have earned more money in that post than in his current Northern Ireland role.

It is a great honour to O’Neill that he was identified by the Scots as “an obvious candidate for consideration” to take charge of their national team.

But, the SFA say, O’Neill decided “to remain loyal to Northern Ireland, with whom he has enjoyed great success,” a decision they respect.

O’Neill is due to stay with Northern Ireland until 2020. We can only hope that he does.

His talents will of course be in demand given his success in guiding a small country to a successful stint in the Euros 2016 in France, and almost to qualification in the World Cup.

We have been lucky to have him.

People across Northern Ireland were saluting both the talents and the modest character of Mark Allen and Michael O’Neill yesterday.