The 2011 European Snooker Championship got under way today in Bulgaria as 63 hopefuls began their quest for the final place on the professional Main Tour.
99 of the 100 places on the pro circuit have already been accounted for and Sofia promises to be a stressful time over the next ten days as talented amateurs from across the continent attempt to gain that last ticket.
It was a fantastic opening day for Ireland’s representatives as Vincent Muldoon, Martin McCrudden and Robert Murphy all got off to the perfect winning start.
Murphy enjoyed an easy 4-0 triumph over Russia’s Evgeniy Belyaev while former three-time Irish Senior Champion McCrudden dropped only one frame as he began the important event with two comfortable victories.
It was Muldoon, though, who sent out a clear message to the rest of the field with a 4-0 drubbing of Bernhard Bernhardsson of Iceland before overcoming the challenge of recent Q-School winner Adam Duffy.
Duffy, awarded the Paul Hunter Scholarship in 2008, came through Qualifying School Event Three with impressive wins over former professionals Lee Walker and David Gray but decided to try to win what he hopes will be his final major championship as an amateur as well.
Galway’s Muldoon is also a former professional, having competed on the Main Tour during the 2008/2009 campaign, and appears hungry for a return to the circuit after a 4-2 victory that included a century break of 118.
Indeed, the former European Under-19 Championship finalist is evidently in great form with five further breaks over 50 to his name over the course of his two clashes.
It would be great if one of Muldoon, McCrudden or Murphy could triumph in Bulgaria this week as Ireland needs the game to progress quickly in the country and not be left behind in the upcoming boom for the sport.
The format for the European Championship is quite simple. Eight groups of 8 players each, who all play each other once over the best of 7 before the top four from each group go through to the knockout rounds – beginning with the last 32.
Judging on today’s performances, all three Irishmen should progress beyond at least the group stage by the end of the week.