The RIBSA Grand Prix, the sixth ranking event of the Irish season, will be contested this weekend at the Ivy Rooms in Carlow.
Rodney Goggins has taken full advantage of the lack of competition to open up a significant lead at the top of the rankings following a brace of victories and two further final appearances in the five events so far.
Since the outset of the campaign, and with only two events left before the National Championship, a meagre 72 different players have entered at least one event on the calendar.
To put this into context, there were 93 for all of the 2013/14 campaign, 135 during the 2012/13 season and a whopping 157 the year before that.
That means that, unless there is a large increase in fresh entries for the final couple of events, there will have been around half the number of players competing on the circuit this season compared to a mere three years ago.
That dramatic slide is frightening considering the fact that when I started to sporadically cover Irish snooker in 2011 many people were already complaining about the decline in entries and the decisions that RIBSA was making to rectify that.
Season after season several tweaks were made but never dramatic enough to sway away from the time-worn mismanagement of the past.
Then, last May there appeared to be a hint of some renewed hope when a new Chairman, John Doherty, was elected and council member Fin Ruane subsequently appointed as the new Public Relations Officer.
Yet, a quite unbelievable decision was passed to withhold half of the prize fund at ranking events in an effort to facilitate trips abroad for the international amateur tournaments.
This infuriated several of the top players, including Martin McCrudden who only a month before had become the national champion for a record fourth time in the modern era.
McCrudden and the likes of other high-profile players in David Hogan and TJ Dowling haven’t competed in any of the tournaments so far this season.
In truth, judging from the Facebook banter page there appears to be a mini civil war that I admit to knowing very little about.
My current status is that I am quite literally thousands of miles across the other side of the world and therefore it’s not really in my capability to investigate every last detail with regard the sport in Ireland.
It is for reasons such as these that I have attempted to generate more interest via articles from the likes of Ruane, Johnny Williams, John Sutton, Philip Browne and, more recently, the country’s newest emerging talent in Josh Boileau.
These people, all of whom I continue to be grateful to for their unique insight, helped shed some light into the current state of Irish snooker and, with that, its governing body.
Because of this, I have been able to come to some of my own conclusions concerning the direction that RIBSA has taken.
First and foremost, it simply astounds me that more emphasis appears to be put on funding the international jaunts when the situation on the domestic front is so catastrophically dire.
RIBSA clearly wants success, and in PJ Nolan they have one of the best and most respected coaches in the world, but the association’s apparent desperation for silverware abroad has unquestionably damaged their own shop at home.
A few weeks ago Ruane resigned from his post as P.R.O. with immediate effect following a string of further blunders that led to the Crossguns Snooker Club owner stating that he “can’t be associated with an organisation like this any more.”
When Ruane, son of former RIBSA President Finbarr Snr., was appointed it had for me been a ray of light in an otherwise darkened wormhole of inadequacies.
Having come to know him quite well over the last few years I appreciate his genuine love for the game and his dedication to developing the junior set-up – grassroots being fundamental in the success of any sport.
His resignation, though, didn’t necessarily come as a huge surprise to me, neither did the fact that RIBSA subsequently alienated a key sponsor that the Dubliner had successfully brought in – one that has since removed its backing.
In an environment that continuously struggles to receive revenue via new sponsorship, this is actually incredible.
It begs the question, does RIBSA have the game in Ireland’s interest at heart, or is it all a facade to protect an inflated ego?
Perhaps a civil war, as mentioned earlier, is what’s really needed with a complete overhaul in the way the game is run required before those in power fully comprehend the severity of the situation.
There are hundreds of players the length and breadth of Ireland, many playing in unsanctioned events in the various clubs across the country.
Meanwhile, 40 players vie for the RIBSA Grand Prix tomorrow in Carlow.