The first senior ranking event of the Irish snooker season takes place this weekend at the Ivy Rooms in Carlow.
A total of 62 players have entered the Barracks Classic, with Brendan O’Donoghue the top seed as both the defending champion and the reigning national champion.
O’Donoghue is one of two players, the other being Dublin’s Michael Judge, who has received an automatic bye into the last 32 of the tournament.
The Tipperary native, who was once a professional on the Main Tour alongside the likes of Judge, won the title last year courtesy of a 4-3 defeat of Robert Murphy in the final.
The 34 year-old subsequently went on to feature in three additional ranking event finals during the last campaign, also winning the Irish Masters in February, before romping to a third national crown in May as he finished the year as the top ranked player.
Judge also enjoyed a stellar 2016/17 season, winning a brace of tournaments in the middle of the campaign, while TJ Dowling captured a couple of trophies of his own to boot.
All three will be highly fancied to feature at the business end of most competitions again this year, with a similar calendar scheduling six ranking events and a National Championship in April and May.
The seven tournaments, as usual, will all be staged at the Ivy Rooms, which is undoubtedly one of the best facilities in the country but does somewhat restrict opportunities for players in the northern half of the country to compete.
Dowling gets under way on Saturday with a first round clash against Aaron Smith while last year’s runner-up Murphy meets Niall Connaire.
The likes of Jason Devaney, John Farrell, Philip Browne, David Cassidy, Greg Casey, and young talent Ross Bulman also feature.
Meanwhile, the event sees the return of Joe Delaney to the Irish snooker scene and the ex seasoned professional has immediately been drawn in a humdinger with 2016 National Championship finalist Jonathan Williams.
Williams will be returning to SnookerHQ again this season with his usual “Sniper’s Snippets” feature detailing the comings and goings at each tournament.
The Monaghan man will also be launching a new feature in which he interviews several players from the Irish snooker community.
Former national champion Davy Morris is also back in action after a spell out of the game, and will face Fionn Commerford in the first round.
Best of luck to all involved this weekend.