The European Amateur Championship has reached the knockout stage in the Czech Republic with all three Irishmen advancing to the last 64 in Prague.
The round-robin stage in these international tournaments tends to be a fairly mundane affair; with so many advancing from each group it is unlikely that any of the bigger names will become immediate casualties.
It is from here on, though, where the competition gets interesting as there are no second chances remaining should one suffer a loss.
National champion Brendan O’Donoghue hasn’t tasted defeat yet and he’ll be hoping that he’ll go the remainder of the tournament in the same way as he bids to go one better than his runner-up spot in 2012.
The Nenagh native made light of work of his opposition in the group stage, winning all six of his matches to the loss of just two frames.
In light of that, the 32 year-old has been given a seeding of three, just behind England’s Antony Parsons and Kacper Filipiak of Poland, who both suffered just the one frame loss in their respective demolition jobs.
O’Donoghue appears to have continued his confident form from the end of his domestic season, compiling a 131 amid a flurry of other big breaks.
Four-time finalist and 1998 champion Kristján Helgason from Iceland went one point better with a 132 and is the fourth seed with plenty of other dangerous competitors left in the draw as well.
Cork’s Greg Casey looked as though he was going to go through his group undefeated, but lost his final match in a decider.
While still an impressive performance from Casey, the slip means that he potentially has to face dangerous Israeli Shachar Ruberg in the last 32 with Filipiak a possible last 16 challenge.
The third member of the senior party, John O’Sullivan, squeezed into the knockout stage by winning two out of his last three league encounters to set up a clash with Scotland’s Robert Carlisle.
A quick scan down through the draw and there are any number of names that you could pick out as credible winners.
Northern Ireland pair Raymond Fry and Declan Lavery were similarly undefeated, as were England’s Michael Wild and John Whitty, as well as Michael Collumb of Scotland.
Filipiak couldn’t even get into the Polish World Cup team next week and it may be understandable as to why, with countrymen Adam Stefanow and Mateuzs Baranowski each with a 100% record.
Germany’s Lukas Kleckers may have lost to O’Donoghue in the group phase, but the 19 year-old has proven in the past his worth in these big championships and could possibly be a name to keep an eye on.
The first two knockout rounds take place today, with the last 16 tomorrow, the quarter and semi-finals on Friday, before the big final concludes on Saturday.
In the Masters, Keith Sheldreck and Tom O’Driscoll both safely made it into the last 32 but once again Welshman Darren Morgan appears to be the man to beat in that discipline.
There was less success for the Irish ladies, with both Ronda Sheldreck and Michelle French exiting after the group stage.
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