The eighth Players Tour Championship event of the season gets under way on Thursday with snooker continuing its welcomed return to Ireland.
The 2011 PTC Grand Finals at The Helix in Dublin was the first time a professional ranking event had been held in the country in six years and Killarney will play host to the Alex Higgins International Trophy this coming weekend.
It is good to see a concerted effort to bring the sport back across the Irish Sea because half a decade was a long time to go for an island with such a rich vein of history on the baize.
The Northern Ireland trophy, of course, was staged four times between 2005 and 2008 so there was at least some action on the Emerald Isle – and it would be nice to have snooker return there also – but a comeback south of the border is more than appropriate.
Snooker in Ireland has struggled to develop many major stars in the last ten years as stalwarts like Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien are continually tasked with flying the tricolour flag despite both being around the 40 years of age mark.
Young talent like David Hogan, David Morris and Vincent Muldoon, among others, have been on and off the Main Tour in recent years without being able to make a concerted push up the standings.
It is a little confusing because even though it is without question that general interest for the game has subsided since the massive boom of the 1980s, there is still a big enough following to ensure even marginal success – or so one would have thought.
It will be hoped that this new influx of events will aid a surge in new cueists coming through and competing on the big stage.
The PTC series, as has been said on countless occasions here, is a wonderful addition to the calendar as it offers a unique opportunity for amateurs to showcase their abilities and gain invaluable experience against the top pros in fierce competition.
However, not many of the Irish amateur contingent have travelled for the events held in England and Europe – probably because of the significant expense for entering, travel and accommodation.
So it is without any huge surprise that dozens of local amateurs will be in attendance at the end of the week.
For many, it will be a trip simply for the experience or one down memory lane, but for some it may be used as a stepping stone to continued glory in future seasons.
Regardless, it will be interesting to see what level of support there will be in Killarney, winner of Ireland’s Tidy Town competition in 2011.
The Grand Finals last March was well attended over the last couple of days but that was in a major city while County Kerry is a lot less central.
Being a minor-ranking event, it isn’t going to be the ultimate factor in the future of the sport here but, with broader horizons being explored by the governing body around the world, the level of success that this weekend provides is certainly important.
The full draw for PTC 8 can be viewed by clicking here.