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Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 18:03 GMT
Mark chalks up golden success
Snooker starlet Mark Allen
Mark Allen has pocketed title success in 2002

Winning titles is fast becoming a habit for Northern Ireland snooker starlet Mark Allen.

The Antrim teenager may be just 16 but he already possesses a CV which has 'star of the future' written all over it.

Allen has clocked up a competitive maximum 147 and in September claimed the Irish U16, U18 and U19 titles in an amazing weekend in Letterkenny.

He became the first to achieve the national hat-trick.

Mark had cemented his place as the best junior on the island yet his ambitions were far from fulfilled.

Deserved reward

The drive to become a professional is all-consuming for the Fountain Club competitor, and this can only be achieved with success in England.

So it was a career landmark when Mark won his first Golden Waistcoat event in Stockport last month.

Irish record holder Mark Allen
Mark shows off the Irish U19 trophy

The Golden Waistcoat series brings together the top U19 amateurs in the world and the victory was a deserved reward after losing in an earlier final.

"It was great to make history as the first player to win all three Irish trophies in one year but the Golden Waistcoat series is a major step up in class," Mark explained.

"You are up against the best young players around and doing well in the series was always my top priority this year.

"So to win in just the third event was superb and it has given me the belief that I can make it at the highest level."

Football was Mark's first love and he had trials for Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest before his passion switched to a smaller white ball just fours ago.

He left school in the summer to concentrate on his snooker career and hones his skills with seven hours practice each day.

  Mark Allen
Born: 22 February 1986
Club: Fountain Club, Antrim
Main honours: 2000 NI U-14 champion; 2001 NI U-16 champion; 2002 Irish U-16, 18 and 19 titles; 2002 Golden Waistcoat winner

Mark names Stephen Hendry as his favourite player but his style is definitely more in the 'Rocket' Ronnie O'Sullivan mould, with a quick tempo and break-building his winning formula.

It would seem that a bright future in the game lies ahead but living in Northern Ireland puts him at a disadvantage.

Travelling to England on a regular basis is a costly business, and even the 250 winner's cheque at Stockport did not cover the expenses for that trip.

Burning desire

It has got to the stage where his family are considering moving to England to give Mark his shot at glory.

It is a drastic measure but illustrates the family's belief in his talent.

"The cost of travelling is my biggest barrier and it could become financially impossible to play in England if I do not get a sponsor," he said.

"Ultimately I know I have to make the move to the mainland and take part in the top tournaments which give you a chance of getting on the professional tour.

"But I am confident my ability and mental strength can take me to the top.

"Every player dreams of being world champion but at the minute it is just about winning the next tournament and hoping for a long career doing something I enjoy so much."

See also:

21 Oct 02 | N Ireland
18 Nov 02 | Snooker
14 Nov 02 | Snooker
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