The fifth senior ranking event of the Irish season takes place this weekend with the Douglas Jewellers Irish Masters in Carlow.
A total of 56 competitors will descend on the Ivy Rooms this Saturday, with top seed Michael Judge looking to extend his recent dominant form.
The 42 year-old is gunning for a hat-trick of ranking event titles after capturing the Presidents and Premier Cups either side of the New Year.
The top eight players in the rankings list receive a bye into the last 32, with National Championship runner-up Jonathan Williams against 1993 champion Colm Gilcreest arguably the pick of the initial first round ties.
One of the most improved players on the circuit recently has been Dublin’s Philip Browne, who awaits the winner of the contest between Brendan Thomas and Alan Mooney.
A maiden ranking event final appearance at the Irish Open in November has paved the way for Browne’s most successful period on the domestic amateur scene.
Currently ranked no.6 in the standings, Browne is on course to eclipse his previous best campaign-ending ranking of eight, set during the last term.
“I was delighted to get to my first Senior points tournament final,” said the Terry Rogers club player.
“It was a big confidence booster for me. Last season I just changed my attitude completely and stopped beating myself up mentally. I tried to enjoy it more and it improved my results massively.”
“Two seasons ago I was really struggling, couldn’t win a match, and was on the verge of stopping playing for good, but I had a break from playing for a few months and decided to keep at it.
“Then last year I beat a lot of good scalps, had a good few decent runs in the tournaments and it gave me a lot of confidence and belief that I was able to bring with me into this season.
“I know that if I play well I can give anyone a good match and if I lose there is always the next one. PJ Nolan also has been a massive influence on my game and has helped me improve a lot over the last few seasons – I can’t thank him enough.”
30 year-old Browne is among the chasing pack of players trying to hunt down Judge at the top of the current RIBSA rankings, with the former professional producing almost unstoppable form of late.
“Mick is flying this season. Winning back-to-back senior and masters tournaments is an unbelievable achievement.”
“Mick was also part of the team that won the All-Ireland Club Championship with Q Club Wicklow, beating my team Terry Rogers in a very close final, so he’s definitely got the winning habit at the moment.
“He changed his cue last summer and it has really paid off for him. He told me he wished he did it 20 years ago. I personally think Mick is good enough to be back on the pro circuit mixing it with the top players but that is up to him if he wants to give it another bash.
“I am looking forward to this weekend. The tables in Carlow have been recovered and the cushions have been done also, so fair play to Jim and Marion in the Ivy Rooms. I know the time and effort they both have put in over the years and we wouldn’t have an Irish snooker tour without them.
“My form recently has been good. I mainly just want to keep enjoying playing and hopefully win a senior ranking event or Irish Championship one day.
“I’d like to qualify to represent Ireland in a big competition again, but it’s all on the day and anything can happen.”