The senior tour of the 2015/16 Irish season gets under way this weekend with the first ranking tournament at the Ivy Rooms in Carlow.
There will be six events in total between now and March, before the National Championship weekend takes place at the start of May.
After many years of the National Championship clashing with Q-School, the decision to stage the campaign’s concluding meet earlier in the month is a no-brainer – and long overdue.
Unsurprisingly, with Jim Leacy back as the RIBSA Chairman, all of the events are to be held in the Ivy Rooms.
By all accounts, this is a superb venue with excellent facilities – arguably the best in Ireland – but it still seems like a significant portion of the country is being neglected by collating all of the competitions in the south-east.
That being said, the first event has attracted big entry numbers with 74 competitors in the opening draw and some mouthwatering first round clashes to look forward to.
The rise in entries, up almost double the amount that regularly attended last season’s events, could be attributed to the fact that RIBSA has retracted its previous clause of withholding half of the players’ entry fees for the various international trips.
This controversial decision 12 months ago resulted in the likes of then national champion Martin McCrudden, David Hogan and TJ Dowling, among others, making the decision to effectively boycott the entire campaign.
That trio are all back and, along with Rodney Goggins, Brendan O’Donoghue, Robert Murphy, Michael Judge and Josh Boileau, this promises to be a highly competitive year in Irish snooker – something that will hopefully generate a welcome boost for the sport on the Emerald Isle.
Funnily enough, the way the seedings fell ensured that four of those star names actually drew each other in the last 64.
Boileau takes on Murphy while the most eye-catching tie is definitely that of McCrudden and Judge, the 2014 and 2013 respective Irish champions.
Also making a comeback is the ‘Sniper’, Johnny Williams, who after a year in China returns to the circuit with the promise of reaching a maiden final.
Johnny used to be a regular contributor on SnookerHQ and I’m in great debt to him that he has agreed to reprise his role as our roaming reporter on the Irish scene.
So, already a good start to the season and hopefully this will continue to be a better one all-round.
There are many views expressed on this website about Irish snooker and, in particular, RIBSA, the national governing body, some of which may at times appear antagonistic.
That, when necessary, wont change.
Yet aside from it all, what we truly want is for the sport to thrive as much as possible in the country, and to that end I hope that this season becomes a resounding success.