The Republic of Ireland Billiards and Snooker Association has announced details of a new Junior Elite Squad of Under-16 players for the 2017/18 season.
This comes only a couple of days after RIBSA’s first Junior Development day was held at the Ivy Rooms in Carlow on Saturday.
More than 30 players ranging from ages five to 20 from around the country attended the event where national coach PJ Nolan and his team led a tutorial session offering tips on cue action, cue ball control and potting skills.
Young players were also offered advice from leading Irish amateur Rodney Goggins, as well as new professional from Kildare Josh Boileau.
Boileau was part of a previous Elite Squad in 2009 and 2010, and said: “Being part of the squad helped me improve my game by playing in all the events.”
The Elite Squad, run by Nolan, will provide six talented youngsters with a scholarship, allowing them to play in each RIBSA tournament free of charge as well as availing of training camps in an effort to improve their games.
It’s a positive step for Irish snooker to see that a significant degree of importance is being weighted on the junior circuit.
Sustained development from a young age is integral to the success of the game in the country, and for the prospects of encouraging more juniors to one day potentially consider making it their careers.
Boileau’s ascension onto the Main Tour has been one of the only Irish success stories of that specific worth in the last number of years.
There have been various reasons for that, one obviously being the withdrawal of the professional place previously given every year to each National Governing Body of the traditional home nations, but the lack of emphasis on recruiting new players early on has also been a major factor.
Further development days will be hosted by RIBSA while the performance of players in junior ranking events will also help determine who receives the scholarship nod.
A final trial will be held prior to the annual Celtic Challenge in June next year, when the six Elite Squad members will be made public.
The only disappointment with the scheduling of the first development meeting on Saturday was that it clashed with a CrossGuns Junior Series tournament, due to be held on the same afternoon.
It resulted in organiser Fin Ruane postponing his competition to a later date to ensure that players who perhaps would have wanted to attend both still had that choice.
While RIBSA’s efforts to enhance the junior set-up nationally is a well-received initiative, it’s crucial that they don’t alienate clubs which are also trying their best to nurture young local talent.
While Ruane hailed the new Elite Squad venture, he questioned RIBSA’s planning, stating on Facebook: “The dates for the CrossGuns Junior Series were released at the end of August after RIBSA released their calendar of events and were carefully planned and arranged not to coincide with any RIBSA or any other junior snooker event held on the same date.”
“This was simply to make sure that every junior had the opportunity to play in as many competitions as possible which in my opinion is much needed in Ireland.
“Unfortunately RIBSA did not consider this when they announced their junior development day.
“As much as I applaud RIBSA for arranging this day for the juniors, which in my opinion is long overdue, surely common sense and courtesy for the other clubs who had events planned for the same date would have been afforded.”
Hopefully better correlation between the governing body and clubs across the country will result in fewer conflicts of dates in the future.