The World Championship has been over for just a week but players are already preparing for the upcoming 2017/2018 campaign.
More than 200 amateur hopefuls descend on the Preston Guild Hall this week hoping to graduate from Qualifying School onto the Main Tour.
Of that large number of entrants, only twelve competitors will earn their right to compete alongside the likes of Mark Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan for the next two seasons.
As has become the norm for the event, Q School is again broken up into two tournaments with the four semi-finalists from each earning their professional ticket.
A further four players will be offered spots through an Order of Merit table based on their results from the pair of events.
It’s a great opportunity for all of the entrants but there is obviously a small sense of lottery about the cut-throat nature of Q School.
Each match is played over the short best of seven while years of practice for many come down to the performances generated over the course of just a mere few days.
The list of names is a mixture of cueists not many would have heard of from countries not usually associated with snooker like Japan and Estonia, to recognisable players who have fallen on hard times in the sport and are desperate to prolong their careers.
Joe Swail, Tony Drago, Jamie Cope, Andy Hicks, and Barry Pinches are among those in action, while even 1980s stars Tony Knowles and Mike Hallett have entered the draw.
World women’s champions Reanne Evans and Ng On Yee will be looking to threaten and take inspiration from the former’s victory over Robin Hull in World Championship qualifying last month.
Of the Irish, a familiar group of names are making the short trip across the Irish sea to compete.
Three-time Irish national champion TJ Dowling is the player most likely to advance, although Cork’s Greg Casey is another with a lot of international experience at amateur level and has come quite close at Q School in the past.
It’s a shame that most of the top players from Ireland decide against attempting Q School every year.
Whether that’s through lack of sponsorship, commitment, ambition, or a combination of all three is a question that would have to be put to them.
Players representing England naturally dominate the list of entries, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the majority of qualifiers hail from the sport’s traditional hotbed.
However, it would arguably be better for the sport if some of the younger talented players with potential from the likes of Germany, Poland, Malta, and India could perhaps emerge over the next couple of weeks with a Main Tour place.
Either way, it promises to be a tense fortnight with the prospect of earning a career from the sport on the line.