While next week will see the mighty scramble for the 16 qualifying places up for grabs at this year’s World Championship at the Crucible, there will be another important battle taking place simultaneously in Ponds Forge.
16 hopeful amateur players head to the International Sports Centre in Sheffield for the EBSA Play-Offs, for which there are two tickets for the professional main tour on offer.
Throughout the season’s European Tour series, any victory for an amateur competitor went towards an Order of Merit table, with the top 16 earning the right to square off against each other for the ultimate prize of being able to challenge the world’s best on a regular basis.
With twelve wins each across the six events, Ireland’s Thomas J. Dowling – better known as TJ – and Josh Boileau earned their right to have a crack at joining the pro ranks.
Better yet for the Irish duo, they have been placed on opposite sides of the draw ensuring that there is a possibility that there will be two fresh Irish faces traveling the circuit next season.
Three wins are required to realise that dream and the competition is fierce with a mixture of previously fallen professionals and talented young blood converging with the same target in mind.
At 34, Dowling represents one of the elder statesmen in the line-up but the two-time Irish national champion is confident that he can still make his mark, and admits he’s not bothered about who is opposition might be.
Dowling told SnookerHQ: “The draw is what it is. There’s no easy draw at this stage as the 16 players are all very strong players.
“But one of my main strengths ever since I was a junior player is that I don’t fear anyone. I never went into any match not believing I could beat my opponent and that’s half the battle. It’s up to me to produce the goods.
“I’m looking forward to my match against Kishan Hirani of Wales, it should be a great game. And with young Josh Boileau as well hopefully the two of us can fly the flag for the Irish over there and do the business.
“I’ve upped my practice a bit the last few weeks but I’ve never been the most dedicated at practice. In saying that, I like to really pump it in a week before a tournament then not play the day before it and go in as fresh as I can. That’s the plan for next week.
“There’s a new cloth on the star table in my club, the Terryrogers Snooker Club in Dublin, so that’s great for me to get into touch before the play-offs. My clubmate ‘wee’ Martin McCrudden is playing in the World Championship qualifiers next week so we’ll really get stuck in together over the next few days.
“It would mean an awful lot for me to win my three matches and qualify onto the main tour and join the professional ranks at this stage of my life. I’m 34 now so I’m no spring chicken but I still believe I’ve got a bit about me and I’ve great belief in my ability so all I can do is give it my all over there in Sheffield next week and leave nothing behind. Give it my all and have no regrets.
“With a bit of run of the ball who knows what will happen. I’ve great support from my family and friends, they’re all 100% behind me so that’s all that matters. I’ll be trying 100% to do it for them over there as much as for myself. But it would be fantastic for me to qualify – could you imagine the amount of posters I’d sell!”
Best of luck to both Dowling and Boileau in their bid to qualify for the Main Tour next week.
The EBSA Play-Offs take place on the 14th and 15th of April.