Mark Allen knows Northern Ireland are in for a stern test when they meet Bosnia and Herzegovina in their Euro 2020 qualifier next month.
The Belfast potter progressed into round three at the ManBetX Welsh Open on Tuesday evening with an assured performance against James Wattana, composing breaks of 72 and 67 to line up a third round clash with Dominic Dale.
And the world No.7 is an avid football fan away from the table, keeping a close eye on Michael O’Neill’s men and they vie to reach just their second European Championship finals in their 99-year history.
But with the all-important qualifier fast approaching, the five-time ranking event winner says he is acutely aware of the task in hand.
“I’m always in a Northern Ireland top - it’s where I’m from, I’m proud to be there and I want to support my country,” he said.
“The qualifier is going to be very tough, especially as it’s obviously over two legs.
“But if we can get any team back to Windsor Park with a chance then I think we’ve got a great shout.
“We’ve got a great record under Michael O’Neill at Windsor, and I’d expect no different in the European Championship qualifier.”
Allen is vying for his maiden ranking event victory since the 19.comScottish Open in 2018 back on the table, preparing to do battle with home favourite Dale under the Motorpoint Arena lights.
And after the experienced 48-year-old praised Allen’s bold style of snooker, The Pistol added he has more to his game than just flair.
“I’m pretty committed in the shots I choose to go for, but I feel like I’ve got more than that as well and I’ve developed a more rounded game,” he added.
“I still want to play good, attacking snooker, but sometimes the balls dictate otherwise.
About time I showed up!!! Had to against a very tough opponent https://t.co/9cMLBRNm2Y— Mark Allen (@pistol147) February 11, 2020
“But it’s going to be a tough match against Dominic, and he’s going to thrive here on his home turf.”
Elsewhere, Northern Ireland-born Gerard Greene toppled world No.16 Ali Carter 4-0, stunning the two-time World Championship finalist to move into round three.
The world No.108 struck a masterful 100 break in the final frame to cap off his march, teeing up a match with Wales’ Daniel Wells on Thursday.
But Antrim's Jordan Brown suffered a second round defeat, losing 4-2 to world No.3 and three-time world champion Mark Williams.