The RIBSA Ladies National Championship gets under way this weekend at Newbridge CYMS in County Kildare.
Michelle Sherwin has dominated the game in Ireland for more than a decade but one player who has been making waves of late and is seeking to end Sherwin’s reign at the top is Dublin’s Paula Judge.
Younger sister of former professional Michael, Judge has not been long back playing competitively after a lengthy spell away from the game.
Yet, her improvement has been so swift that she has earned plaudits from many seasoned competitors in recent times, especially on the domestic front.
Last month Judge competed alongside fellow Irishwoman Ronda Sheldreck in the World Women’s Championship in Singapore, helping to raise the profile of women’s snooker in Ireland in the process.
It proved to be a difficult tournament with both unable to emerge from the round-robin phase, but for Judge it marked a further stepping stone on her march up through the ranks in the game.
“Singapore was a great experience for me,” said Judge, who won one match and narrowly lost 3-2 to eventual runner-up Vidya Pillai in the group stages.
“I was lucky enough to get sponsorship from Eden Resources for it. The results didn’t go my way and I was a little out of my depth experience wise, but I learned a lot and I’m now determined to work even harder to improve.”
“I’ve only been back playing a year and have so much to learn – as my brother Michael tells me, ‘you’re only a novice with a great natural cue action and have so much to learn and improve on, that’s what makes it exiting.’
“Michael’s been so supportive of me and it’s nice to have him at my side to teach me with the kind of talent and knowledge he has. I’m very lucky.”
It’s full steam ahead for the Judge clan in the coming months with National Championships and more international events to contend.
Paula will be competing in both the ladies and the senior National Championships, where Michael will be one of the favourites to lift the crown after an excellent season in general for the 42 year-old.
Judge junior also has her eyes set on the IBSF World Amateur Championships in Malta later in the year.
“I have Malta to look forward to in November so hopefully I’ll be getting better results.”
“I’ll also be playing in as many of the men’s senior Irish ranking tournaments as I can as it’s the only way to improve and try and reach a level in which I believe I’m capable of.
“To be honest, I enjoy the men’s events more so than the ladies ones as it’s a higher standard and I can learn a lot more. I want to reach my full potential and at the moment I’m not even halfway there.
“I’d love to be able to compete with the top ladies in the world and in a few years it may happen.
“The Irish Ladies Championship qualifier is coming up in Newbridge. Last year I lost 4-1 to Michelle in the final and she’s dominated Irish ladies snooker for the last 13 years which has been a great achievement.
“I’m hoping with another season or two of experience under my belt I can hopefully take over and bring the Irish ladies game to a new level.
“At the moment there’s a divide between RILSA and RIBSA, and I’d love to see them come together in the future.
“I’m playing in both associations and hoping to set a good example for other lady players. I just love playing and want to stay out of the politics but if they could join together it would be a massive step in growing the ladies game in Ireland.
“I just want to add a huge thanks to David Byrne from Cues Ireland. He has sponsored myself and Michael for next season, he’s a great guy and I wish him the very best in making Cues Ireland a success.”
There’ll be many across the country who’ll be equally wishing Paula every success as she continues to develop her game in the future, both at home and abroad.