Mark Allen has revealed how he used the coronavirus lockdown to become a delivery boy for his local community in Antrim – and feels the role was crucial to his own mental well-being away from snooker.
The Northern Irishman was speaking after his stunning 9-8 win over 2005 world champion Shaun Murphy in the Tour Championship quarter-finals behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
Murphy equalled Stephen Maguire’s record of six centuries for a best-of-17 frames match, but somehow still lost as Allen’s razor-sharp matchplay skills and refusal to collapse saw him progress to a semi-final meeting with three-times world champion Mark Selby on Thursday.
“The first few weeks were really tough,” said Allen, winner of five ranking events since turning professional in 2005. “The only time I really seen anyone was on video calls when we were all having a few drinks.
“That was the only time I really seen anyone so it was getting on top of me a little bit.
“I didn’t enjoy being in the house on my own so I put a few things on social media volunteering to do anything really. No-one came back to me so I thought I can’t even give it away for free.
“Eventually I got in touch with a guy who got in touch with another guy who was in charge of the whole community help scheme in Antrim.
“He was happy for me to get on board so it was just a matter of going to get grocery shopping for people who couldn’t get out of the house.
“Going prescription runs delivering them all around Antrim. I was doing that about three or four hours every day."
The 2018 Masters champion admits he loved conversing with the local community shielding at home against the dangers of coronavirus.
“It was good and I met some really nice people," said the 2004 world amateur champion. "There was one elderly man who must have been well into his 90s.
“He lived with his wife and couldn’t get out of the house. Every time I delivered to him, I made sure I did his house last because it meant I could stay and have a chat with him.
“I was there for maybe half an hour every time I went to see him. It was just pleasing to do it.
“I enjoyed it. It got me out of the house and not overthink things sitting on your own.”
Mark Allen with the Masters title in 2018.
Image credit: Eurosport
Tour Championship draw
Quarter-finals (best of 17 frames)
(All sessions start at 1:30pm and 7pm BST)
Neil Robertson 5-9 Stephen Maguire (Saturday)
Judd Trump 9-4 John Higgins (Sunday)
Mark Selby 9-6 Yan Bingtao (Monday)
Shaun Murphy 8-9 Mark Allen (Tuesday)
Semi-finals (best of 17 frames)
Stephen Maguire v Judd Trump (Wednesday)
Mark Selby v Mark Allen (Thursday)
Final (best of 19 frames)
Maguire/Trump v Selby/Allen (Friday)
We’d love to know what you think of our site and how we can make it better – please help us by filling in this short survey