ANTRIM snooker ace Mark Allen is back in competitive action this week in a bid to reclaim his Masters crown.
But the 35-year-old will have to be at the very top of his game as he takes on Judd Trump (pictured right) in the first round at Alexandra Palace.
Trump enters the contest as bookies favourite - but that is unlikely to bother The Pistol, who has proved time and time again that he has the skills to rise to the big occasion.
Indeed, the pair met back in October in the Northern Ireland Open.
The Antrim man thumped Trump 5-3 in front of a passionate and partisan Belfast crowd.
Allen won the tournament in what he later described as one of the highlights of his career. He even threw in a 147 break for good measure!
The win was undoubtedly all the sweeter considering that it came near the end of a challenging year like no other for the local hero.
There had been a well-publicised bankruptcy and reports of legal disputes with former partners - distractions he could have done well without.
It had been, he said with some understatement, ‘a long, tough, draining 2021 on and off the table’. The fact that he managed to bounce back is a testament to the steely resolve that has seen him win no fewer than six ranking titles during a high-flying career.
His legion of fans hope that he can do it all again this week by going all the way and pocketing the £250,000 top prize.
The big game starts tomorrow (Wednesday) at 1pm and will be broadcast live on BBC 2.
Victory will see him take on either Kyren Wilson or Stuart Bingham on Friday.