Professional snooker returns this week with the Ruhr Open in Germany – the fourth European Tour event of the campaign.
Proceedings got under way on Wednesday with the start of the preliminary amateur rounds and there was already disappointment for two of the Irish contingent travelling.
John Sutton, who came within one victory of a Main Tour place back at May’s Q-School, was narrowly defeated 4-3 by Kishan Hirani of Wales while England’s Joshua Baddeley ended Gary Ryan’s maiden PTC outing with a 4-2 victory.
Thomas Dowling, Mark Dooley and Dessie Sheehan compete today and must win a brace of encounters to reach the first round proper, which start on Friday.
The Ruhr Open was first contested last season when Mark Allen triumphed with a 4-1 success over Ding Junhui in the final.
The in-form Northern Irishman is back to defend his title as he looks to consolidate his lead at the top of the Order of Merit table – for which the top 24 players seal qualification for the series ending Grand Finals.
Notable absentees from the tournament include Ding, world champion Mark Selby – who just celebrated the birth of his first child – Ronnie O’Sullivan, Ricky Walden and Ali Carter.
However, the likes of Neil Robertson, Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy will be gunning for glory alongside Allen.
Dubliners Fergal O’Brien and Ken Doherty will be in action as well, with the latter in a clash of the former world champions against Graeme Dott in the last 128, while David Morris takes on a struggling Matthew Stevens.
As the European Tour enters its second half, with six tournaments to be played in total, the fight for Order of Merit places will become more intense.
Not only is the lucrative Grand Finals up for grabs in Thailand, but there is also an opportunity for the top eight players,who are not already guaranteed their place by other means, an avenue back onto the Main Tour for the next campaign.
Plenty to look forward to over the coming days as snooker returns to Germany, a country that has been a terrific addition to the calendar in recent years.