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Dublin: 4 °C Monday 17 February, 2020

Mark King's touching speech about family and his gambling addiction after Northern Ireland Open win

‘It was one of those things that I never thought was going to happen,’ explained the 42-year-old after ending a 25-year wait.

King celebrates with his family.
King celebrates with his family.
Image: Presseye/Matt Mackey/INPHO

AFTER 319 TOURNAMENTS and a 25-year wait, Mark King finally claimed his first ranking snooker title last night — winning the Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.

The 42-year-old, who lost out to Stephen Hendry in the 1997 Welsh Open final and went down to Peter Ebdon in the 2004 Irish Masters decider, saw off fellow Englishman Barry Hawkins 9-8 to claim the Alex Higgins Trophy and £70,000 (€81,000) prize money at the Titanic Exhibition Centre.

King, accompanied by his wife and kids, was understandably emotional while giving his victory speech — touching on his gambling addiction and coming through hard times.

“See the last two minutes, where they (his kids) came out… I’ve been dreaming of that ever since they’ve been born,” he said, while holding back the tears.

“And I never thought it would happen. 42 years old, I’m on the last nine of my career. Them coming out and seeing me winning is everything.

“My wife has been unbelievable the last few years. I used to (be into) compulsive gambling, (I would) treat her like absolute crap and she has stuck with me. She’s been an absolute rock.

I can’t thank her enough. She’s an angel.

“I just looked over at them and said: ‘Am I dreaming?’ I still can’t believe it happened.”

He went on: ”It was one of those things that I never thought was going to happen. I messed around a bit, with my gambling years and years ago but I go to GA (Gamblers Anonymous) once a week and it keeps me clean.

“I’ve been off it nearly four years and it’s really good.”

Source: Snooker 4All/YouTube

King also thanked the people who helped him along the way and, in particular, his father.

“I’m gutted he can’t be here tonight but he’s not feeling very well,” he added. “He spent his last money on me all through the years.

“Even before this competition he lent me money to be here because I was skint.

“Seriously, he’s 83 years old, a little wheeler and dealer, ducking and diving, and everyone on the tour knows him.

“He’s the most loveliest bloke and I cannot thank him enough. The only thing I can do is take that trophy home.”

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Ben Blake

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