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Emotional Northern Ireland Open winner Mark King pays tribute to his family

Mark King with his family after winning the Coral Northern Ireland Open last Sunday at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast
Picture by Press Eye 
Martin McGoran & PA

MARK KING won the Coral Northern Ireland Open in Belfast with a thrilling 9-8 win over fellow Londoner Barry Hawkins at the Titanic Exhibition Centre.

King, who was ending a 25-year wait for a ranking title, becomes the first man to lift the Alex Higgins Trophy, as well as pocketing a winners’ cheque for £70,000.

King turned professional in 1991 and has earned over £1million during that time, but admitted arriving in Ireland “without a tenner in the bank”. He borrowed money from his father Bill, to get to Belfast and was unable to hold back the tears as he addressed the crowd following a 9-8 final win over Barry Hawkins which earned him £70,000.

King’s wife, Sally, and three children watched on as King broke down, admitting he had treated his partner like “absolute crap” during his battle with gambling.

“To see that last two minutes, where [the children] came out... I have been dreaming of that ever since they were born. I never thought it would happen. Forty-two years old, I’m on the last nine of my career,” he said.

“My wife’s been unbelievable. [The] last few years, I used to [do] compulsive gambling, treated her like absolute crap and she stuck with me. She’s been an absolute rock. I looked at them and said ‘am I dreaming?”’

King also paid tribute to his father, who has looked over his career from the off. He was unable to make the final owing to illness, but King admitted it was his financial help that got him there.

“I want to thank my dad, I’m gutted he can’t be here tonight, but he’s not feeling well,” he said, tearfully.

“He’s spent his last money on me, he lent me money to come here because I was skint. I’m serious. He’s 83-years-old, he’s a little ducker and diver, wheeling and dealing and everyone on the tour knows him and I cannot thank him enough and the only thing I can do is to take that trophy home.

“I came here without a tenner in the bank. My dad and my mate lent me some money until my money comes through from [recent tournaments in] China. I go to Gamblers Anonymous once a week, it keeps me clean and I want to build now.”

Hawkins went into the best-of-17 final as favourite despite having had a tougher semi-final. He cruelly denied Anthony Hamilton, quarter-final conqueror of Mark Allen, in a deciding frame (6-5) after King had caused a mild surprise with his 6-2 win over Kyren Wilson in the other last four clash.

But Hawkins showed why he was favourite as he took advantage of his opponent’s nerves to take a 2-0 lead with breaks of 85 and a 113 clearance.

King hit back to open his account with a century of his own, a 110 clearance being his first of the week, but Hawkins turned the screw by winning the next three-in-a-row to move 5-1 ahead.

At that stage in the best-of-17 encounter, King really needed to win the last two frames of the afternoon session to stand any chance. Not only did he do that, but he also added the first four of the evening session to move 7-5 ahead, helped by breaks of 62, a 100 clearance and 54.

The mid-session interval, though, came at the wrong time for King as Hawkins returned to close the gap to one with a break of 73 and then levelled with a 76 clearance. But it was King who moved ahead again at 8-7, cashing in on a fluked red for a frame-winning contribution in frame 15.

Frame 16 was the longest of the final and Hawkins took it on a re-spotted back to force a decider, but King held his nerve in the decider to clinch victory.

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