All three Irishmen on the Main Tour will be making the trip to China for the Wuxi Classic after respective victories for Ken Doherty, Fergal O’Brien and David Morris in Gloucester.
Despite some good performances from the veteran Dublin duo of Doherty and O’Brien, last season will go down as one of the bleakest in Irish snooker history with a paltry two people from the Republic on the professional circuit.
But with Kilkenny’s Morris having excelled in the recent Q-School, regaining his pro status after a year’s absence, there has been renewed hope for the sport in the country.
And that came to fruitition in the first qualifying event of the season under the fresh format introduced for this campaign.
Unlike before, all players no matter where ranked will enter eight of the 11 ranking events in the first round.
This has created a level playing field and it is for a reason like this, not to forget the fact he has had a handful of years experience already in the big-time, that I tipped 24 year-old Morris to be a player to look out for in the subsequent twelve months.
The three-time Irish national champion maintained his form from Sheffield, knocking in a hat-trick of breaks above 60 to see off England’s Michael Holt 5-3 and get his second stint on the Main Tour off to the best possible start.
Morris’ countrymen also progressed with O’Brien producing a typically determined display to come from behind to overcome amateur Ben Harrison 5-3 while Doherty ensured Joe Swail’s comeback was short-lived after recording a 5-2 victory over the Northern Irishman.
Elewhere, the second big shock of the new system finally arrived as Shaun Murphy joined world no.1 Mark Selby on the sidelines following a heavy 5-1 defeat to Alex Davies.
With 50 being the highest break of the match it was arguably more a case of former world champion Murphy still being rusty but, still, fair play to Davies, who also entered the tour this season via Q-School.
Meanwhile, most of the other scores were true to form – even, you could say, 15 year-old Lu Haotian’s superb 5-2 triumph over Rod Lawler.
China’s latest hot yound prospect has been superb any time we have seen him so far and even compiled a 135 century break during Wednesday’s encounter.
Indeed, it was a good qualifying stage for the Chinese, who will have eight of their own as well as Hong Kong’s Marco Fu competing in Wuxi next month.
Today, the Australian Open qualifiers get under way in a format that reverts back to the old four-round system that we had become so accustomed to in the past.
The full list of results and the draw can be viewed by clicking here.