There was a lot of attention made, both here and elsewhere, about the sorry fact that there would be only two Irishmen from south of the border on the Main Tour this season.
There were numerous reasons for this unfortunate outcome but the most prominent one was World Snooker’s decision to take away the country’s automatic place for topping the national amateur standings, which had traditionally always been the case.
It meant that the circuit, made up of 96 players, would just boast the two men who have flown the tricolour flag proudly now for over 20 years.
This, though, was of certain concern as, with both over 40 years of age and arguably into the twilight of their careers, the future of the sport in this country didn’t – and still doesn’t – look all that bright.
Of equal consideration was the undesirable prospect that seeing a player from the Republic in the latter stages of events or even at the venue stage itself would become a rarer phenomenon given the pair’s age and overall stagnated form in recent years.
But with Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien you can be guaranteed one thing – a dogged determination to battle it out until the bitter end.
And often, with the right attitude comes better results, as the Dubliners can testify to so far this year.
It has been an excellent summer for Doherty and O’Brien, capped yesterday with them qualifying for the inaugural International Championship in China, a tournament which has already become one of snooker’s most lucrative.
A brace of 6-3 triumphs meant that they have now each been successful in three of the opening four ranking event qualification stages this season while they both ensured a flight to Poland was on the cards as well last week by winning their first two rounds in the Gdynia Open – part of the European PTC series.
While it is not absolutely imperative that these two stalwarts are successful while alone on the tour, it certainly does help.
For it would do nothing for the game back home in Ireland if young kids had nobody from their native island to aspire to become.
It is unlikely that either of them will break back into the Top 16 of the world rankings at this stage of their careers but it would not be surprising, with so many events on the calendar, to see one or both of them go deep into the business end of a tournament at some point during the next few months.
Their resilience and capability to have an excellent temperament means that, even though they can not produce the same heights as in their formative years, they are still more than capable of mixing it with the likes of Trump and Ding on their day.
For this reason, Ireland always has and will continue to rely on Doherty and O’Brien to proudly fly the flag.
Briefly, a nation who is appearing to be moving forward in their snooker development is India, and it was excellent to see Aditya Mehta and Pankaj Advani qualifying for their maiden ranking event yesterday having come through all four rounds.
India has been widely tipped as being a hotbed, a bit like the success that has been seen in China, and this emergence will do wonders for a potential ranking event to be staged in the country in the near future.
With China already on board and India following, snooker really is on the right path to becoming global.
Categories: Snooker News