Irish Ready for Tough World Championship Qualifiers

The draw for the World Championship qualifiers was made on Monday and it certainly threw up quite a few interesting ties for the Irish.

Boileau O'Donoghue Euro 16
Josh Boileau and Brendan O’Donoghue – photo courtesy of Ivy Rooms Carlow.

In total there are seven from the Republic, as well as a further three from the North who are attempting to gain one of the coveted 16 Crucible spots left available.

Everyone was eager to see who China’s Ding Junhui would get in the opening round, and the honour, if you can call it that, fell on Cork’s Greg Casey.

The amateur gained an invitation to compete on the back of his strong showing at last year’s Q-School, and his reward is a clash with a player who will probably be written¬†as one of the top 10 best players ever.

Casey has a lot of experience in international amateur tournaments and was a member of Ireland’s winning Home Internationals side in 2012, but this will surely represent the biggest challenge of his career.

Ding will be pleased with the draw but Casey is a solid match player and could cause the Chinese no.1 a few headaches, particularly if Ding suffers from any hangover from failing to qualify automatically.

With three victories required at Ponds Forge to book a place in the last 32, Ding could potentially meet another Irishman at the last hurdle in Leo Fernandez.

Fernandez, a former pro who will be returning to the circuit next season after his exploits on the Asian Tour, qualified for the World Championship in 1999 only to lose in the opening round to Ronnie O’Sullivan.

The Limerick cueist, who is based in England, takes on 2015 China Open runner-up Gary Wilson in the first qualifying stage.

Meanwhile, a lot of Irish eyes will be pinned on the endeavors of young Josh Boileau, who by triumphing in the European Under-21 Championship will also be earning a professional tour card in the upcoming campaign.

The 20 year-old meets two-time beaten world finalist Matthew Stevens, and Boileau sees it as a good test ahead of his rookie year.

“I’m quite happy with the draw,” said Boileau, who also won his maiden Irish ranking event in December.

“This tournament gives me a chance to settle down before my actual tour card starts.

“Having a tough player like Matthew will do me the world of good I think as I’ll take a lot from it.”

You’d have to say that Boileau has a decent chance of springing an upset too given his success of late and the lack of form for Welshman Stevens.

Elsewhere, arguably the tie of the round is that of Fergal O’Brien and Steve Davis, the latter competing in memory of his late father Bill who died last week at the age of 89.

Davis will be the underdog obviously but it wouldn’t be surprising to see that pair engrossed in a grueling battle well past midnight come Saturday night.

1997 world champion Ken Doherty is also tasked with an extremely difficult opener as he was paired with Andy Hicks.

Hicks doesn’t play that often any more but when he does it’s easy to see the talent that once brought him to the semi-finals at the Crucible.

Kilkenny’s David Morris faces a testing week as he attempts to earn the wins required to salvage his Main Tour survival.

Morris, who is up against Chris Melling, has suffered a terrible season and he’ll need at least one victory to have any chance of staying on the circuit.

Finally, reigning Irish national champion Brendan O’Donoghue challenges England’s David Grace, who memorably reached the last four of the UK Championship in December.

Three players from north of the border are also seeking to join Antrim’s Mark Allen in the first round proper.

Gerard Greene is up against the ‘Whirlwind’ Jimmy White, who is attempting to make it back to his old stomping ground for the first time in 10 years.

Joe Swail, twice a semi-finalist, will play China’s Zhang Yong while amateur Conor McCormack meets Welshman Lee Walker.

The qualifiers get under way tomorrow and run until next Wednesday in Sheffield.

Click here to view the full draw.

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