The knock-out stages of the 2011 World Under 21 Snooker Championship will commence later today with all five players from the Emerald Isle still in contention in Montreal.
Republic of Ireland’s Vincent Muldoon, Greg Casey, Jason Devaney and David Cassidy have been joined by Northern Ireland’s Declan Brennan in the last 32 of the prestigious tournament.
The quintet have already eased through a gruelling round-robin stage that, in truth, sorts the men out from the boys in the amateur game.
Now, though, is where the business end of proceedings begin as each of them go in search of that coveted professional place on the Main Tour for next season – as well as joining a list of high quality names that have won the trophy in the past.
As was the case during the European Championship in Bulgaria last month, Muldoon has been one of the star performers across the Atlantic during the first week.
The NUI Maynooth graduate eased to victory in all seven of his group stage clashes, knocking in an impressive five centuries along the way.
Runner-up in Sofia in June, Muldoon was unfortunate not to get an automatic bye into the last 16 as he only missed out on frame difference to the top two seeds.
Those are China’s Li Hang and Nick Jennings of England – two cueists that have also enjoyed 100% records up until this point.
However, Muldoon should not be under too much pressure as he takes on Belgium’s Jurian Heusdens, a player who only scraped into the last 32 with two victories to his name.
Casey and Cassidy are in the same half of the draw as Muldoon and could potentially meet each other in later rounds while the North’s Brennan could book a date with the Galway potter as early as the next round if he can dislodge Australia’s Shaun Dalitz.
Devaney, meanwhile, who is looking to add this crown to the Senior, Under 21 and Under 19 National Championships that he claimed earlier in 2011, is the sole Irish representative in the bottom half of the draw.
The Mayo man will challenge Shahar Ruberg after the Israeli qualified in second place behind Muldoon in Group E.
The remaining line-up is riddled with former professionals and extremely talented amateurs alike.
Hang and Jennings have proved that already but ex-pros Zhang Anda and Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon of China and Thailand respectively will prove dangerous, as well as Thanawat’s countryman Noppon Saengkham.
Similarly, Scotland’s Michael Leslie, Scott Donaldson and fellow Brit Duane Jones of Wales ensure that the remaining rounds will be fiercely contested.