There’s no rest for the wicked, the wicked being amateurs, as 2016’s Qualifying School gets under way on Wednesday in Burton.
Around 200 hopefuls descend on Meadowside Leisure Centre this week in an effort to gain one of the 12 coveted Main Tour spots available to join the professional ranks.
The original list of entries from earlier this year are joined by several of the unfortunate cueists who failed to break into the top 64 in the world rankings by the end of the recent World Championship.
These include the likes of Gerard Greene and Peter Lines, tour stalwarts who dropped below the cut-off point, but not Ireland’s David Morris who has decided against an immediate return.
There are six men from the Republic, though, attempting to join Ken Doherty, Fergal O’Brien, Josh Boileau and Leo Fernandez on the pro circuit.
One of those is Cork’s Greg Casey, who reached the penultimate round 12 months ago only to be denied by eventual qualifier Gareth Allen of Wales.
Casey made headlines last month by being the unlucky number pulled out of the hat to draw China’s Ding Junhui in the first round of World Championship qualifying at Ponds Forge.
The 26 year-old took a creditable four frames off the eventual Crucible runner-up, just missing out on being able to say that he was a world champion’s victim.
“It kind of would have been great to get beaten by the eventual winner,” Casey told SnookerHQ.
“But I said that Selby is a different animal over the longer matches and that showed. What a performance from both though.”
For Casey to be regularly competing alongside Ding and Selby he must reach the semi-finals in either of the two upcoming Q-School events, or place in the top four in a separate Order of Merit of the best players who don’t quite manage one of the eight automatic spots.
“I can’t wait for Q-School to be honest. Since almost qualifying last year to playing Ding in the World Championship, it gives me great confidence and belief in myself which is huge in this game.
“I picked up a sponsor last year, Tomàs Singleton of Singleston’s SuperValu, and he’s still with me which is a great help financially. That takes a lot of stress off when you’re travelling to these events, so I’m very, very grateful to him.
“I put in lots of hours everyday but at the moment I’m just fine tuning any little bits to make my game perfect so hopefully that pays off. I haven’t looked at my draws, just my first match time because it doesn’t matter who you play in these events as they are all really good players.
“If you play well you have a chance, and if you don’t then you’ll get beat – it’s as simple as that really. If I perform then I have a great chance of qualifying and hopefully getting so close last year will drive me on the extra bit this year.”
Casey has a bye into the last 128 for Q-School Event 1, but will potentially face a tricky initial obstacle in Malta’s Alex Borg on Thursday.
He is joined by Jason Devaney, the 2011 national champion who was runner-up in two domestic ranking events this season, and a pair of other Cork men – Daniel O’Regan and Aaron Tobin.
Joe Delaney, who hasn’t been on the Main Tour since 2011, and veteran Dessie Sheehan also return for a crack at the big-time.
Along with Greene, Conor McCormack, Christopher Maye, Raymond Fry, Declan Brennan and Jordan Brown are representing Northern Ireland.
The best of luck to each of them.