Dubliners Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien comfortably qualified for the Australian Open yesterday – making it successive events the pair have reached early this season.
Last week, the veteran duo, who have long flown the tricolour flag, won the solitary match necessary to make the venue stage of the Wuxi Classic and repeated the feat on Monday to ensure a quick double.
Doherty wasted little time in overcoming Simon Bedford 5-0 and return to Bendigo for the third straight year.
The former world champion has openly admitted being buoyed by the fact he has family Down Under – his wife is an Aussie – and therefore enjoys the excuse to return to the country.
In the Australian Open’s inaugural staging in 2011, Doherty reached his first ranking event semi-final since 2006 and with the draw diminished by the lack of entry from the top players he may find himself in with a chance for some more success as his career reaches its twilight years.
O’Brien surrendered a couple of frames but still had more than enough in the bag to battle past James Wattana 5-2 and is edging closer to regaining his place among the world’s top 32.
The moment of the round, though, was arguably when Michael White joined the likes of Doherty, Mark Selby and most recently another Irishman in David Morris in missing the final black on a 147 attempt.
Apparently, the Welshman had sunk a stunning pink but was left with a tricky cut-back on the black which he sadly failed to make.
Yet, it was not to affect the World Championship quarter-finalist too much, going on to record a 5-1 victory over Nigel Bond – the same score as Ben Woollaston’s triumph over namesake Jimmy White.
A pair of Chinese and Thais did the business in the final round with Zhang Anda and Xiao Guodong progressing to represent the People’s Republic and Dechawat Poomjaeng and Noppon Saengkham advancing for Thailand.
It continues Poomjaeng’s remarkable run in the last couple of months, where he caused quite a stir in beating Stephen Maguire to reach the last 16 at the Crucible and has since backed that up by qualifying for both events of the new campaign.
Aside from Scotland’s Marcus Campbell, who edged Liam Highfield 5-4 in a tight thriller, And Ryan Day of Wales who beat Tony Drago 5-3, the rest of those who will be booking plane tickets to the other side of the world are English.
Middlesbrough’s Mike Dunn embarked on a rare journey to a venue as he notched up his third triumph with a 5-2 win over Peter Ebdon.
Given the fact Dunn was 4-0 down to amateur Saqib Nasir in his opening game, the achievement is made even all the more special.
Elsewhere, Rory McLeod put in a typically slugger performance to beat Scott Donaldson 5-3 while there were victories for Jamie Cope, Paul Davison, Alfie Burden and Ian Burns.
The Australian Open takes place from 8-14 July in Bendigo, Victoria.
The full draw for the last 32 can be viewed by clicking here.