NI snooker prodigy ready to follow in footsteps of former stepfather and mentor Mark Allen

Mark Allen with Robbie McGuigan
-Credit: (Image: WST)

Rising star Robbie McGuigan is hungry to follow in his mentor Mark Allen’s footsteps and prove his worth in his first season on the professional tour.

The Antrim young gun is the latest prodigy to herald from Northern Ireland, following in the footsteps of top potter Allen, Alex Higgins, Dennis Taylor, Jordan Brown and Joe Swail.

And the 19-year-old prodigy, who has won a two-year professional tour card after a string of starring performances last season, would love nothing better than to win a ranking title to make his mark at the top level.

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Allen was McGuigan’s stepfather until 2020, but the pair have remained close despite the new world No 1 having split with his mother Kyla, with whom he has a daughter.

"I've learnt a lot off Mark, especially the last two or three years,” revealed McGuigan, who regularly practices with Allen and fellow countryman Brown.

"I actually don't think I listened too much when I was younger to be honest, when I was 13 or 14 you think you know everything.

"But then I had a few bad results and I realised I need to learn from people like Mark - and I need to learn more because I don't know everything.

"I am taking on board everything he says on board now - and hopefully I continue to learn.

"The main aspects of learning for me is how I conduct myself, having a good temperament, how to prepare myself properly and to then give everything in my matches.

"I might go on to achieve more than Mark or achieve less but it won't bother me as long as I fulfil my own potential and I won't stop working towards that.”
McGuigan has watched in awe as 11-time ranking event winner Allen has risen to the top of the world rankings, keeping top stars Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump at bay, having won six titles in the past two seasons.

Robbie McGuigan -Credit:Northern Ireland Billiards & Snooker Association
Robbie McGuigan -Credit:Northern Ireland Billiards & Snooker Association

"I've been lucky enough to watch Mark in a lot of his big finals - and it made me want to be out there doing it,” added McGuigan, a former Northern Ireland amateur champion. “It inspired me a lot.

"One of my lifetime goals was to turn professional, it's an absolutely tremendous feeling.

"It's something I've believed I was going to do for the last couple of years.

"I was having a hard time on the snooker table and some of my results were poor, but I've never stopped believing. I feel like I've earnt my right to be there.

"I feel like I belong there and I just want to go out there and show what I can do.

"I think over the last two years I've probably put too much pressure on myself to perform, but in the last year I've just enjoyed trying to be in the moment and potting the balls.

"I'm a proud Northern Irishman, I always have been. I think, for such a small country, we punch so much above our weight in the sport.

"Regardless of what happens now, I just want to make sure I have as many happy memories as I can and hopefully win a trophy.”

Allen has no doubts McGuigan, who was crowned the European Amateur champion last season, has the ability to be a big name in the green baize game.

"I believe he can go all the way to the top of the sport," said Allen.

"Words can't express how proud I am of him, I am always on the phone to him telling him how proud I am of him and not just in the wins but because he works so hard.

"He is always practising and trying things to improve his game. We used to have to peel him off the table to make him go home to bed so he could get up for school!

"He was beating men in tournaments when he was nine but when he was 13 he made his first 147.

“I was on my way back from China and someone called to tell me, I thought they were winding me up! But I saw the footage back and couldn't believe it.”

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