The 2014 Q-School gets under way today with eight players set to gain entry onto the Main Tour for next season.
Prior to this year’s edition, there had been twelve places up for grabs but the introduction of new invitations via other avenues has ensured that the number was reduced.
In addition, World Snooker supremo Barry Hearn has suggested that there could be a possibility in the future for an Asian Q-School, and therefore the requirement for a dozen would have eventually been curtailed anyway.
The Capital Venue in Gloucester will stage the tournament over the next couple of weeks, as it winds down its relationship with the professional circuit in an event capacity.
It will remain as a top-class practice facility for both pros and amateurs alike, but upcoming redevelopment of the building will result in the overall focus of snooker being changed.
The venue has hosted many excellent competitions over the last number of years and no doubt this year’s Q-School will provide further drama.
The 2013/14 campaign is barely a week over, yet a host of players are now preparing for a fierce battle to become the newest members of the next Main Tour.
Many of the names will be familiar, with several having only recently dropped off the circuit and are now trying to force their way back on immediately.
Some, like veteran Mike Hallett, are attempting to return after years out of the game while others are completely new faces to the scene.
Five Irishmen are taking part, all of whom hoping to join compatriots Ken Doherty, Fergal O’Brien and David Morris in the pro ranks.
Of the quintet, 37 year-old Leo Fernandez has the most experience having enjoyed several years as a professional in the past, his resume including a run to the first round proper of the World Championship in 1999.
However, the pedigree doesn’t stop there as three former national champions are in the draw as well.
Three-time winner Martin McCrudden will arguably be the favourite of all of them to progress having only narrowly finished below the number one Irish ranking position this season on the domestic front.
TJ Dowling and, more recently, 21 year-old Jason Devaney are also ex-national champions and the latter in particular would be thinking that a run in Gloucester could set the foundations for a successful career in the sport.
Last, but by no means least, sometime SnookerHQ writer John Sutton returns and actually has the most experience in the event itself having earned entry in 2012 by finishing runner-up in the inaugural Snookerbacker Classic.
In the short sprint that is a best-of-seven format, all five men are capable of being successful in their efforts to become a pro player.
They’ll have two opportunities, with the first four places being decided this week before the remaining quartet is determined the following week.
The best of luck to all the Irish lads competing.