The third senior ranking event of the Irish campaign gets under way on Saturday at the Ivy Rooms in Carlow.
A disappointing 54 players have entered the tournament, while two further names have already been marked down on the draw as having withdrawn.
As such, several of the in-form players from this season already have been given a bye into the last 32.
That includes the likes of Davy Morris, winner of the Hicksons Centra Open in October, and reigning national champion Brendan O’Donoghue.
The depleted field is also without defending President’s Cup champion Michael Judge, who emerged victorious with the first ranker of this season at the Barrack’s Classic.
The likes of Stephen Bateman and Greg Casey, both runners-up from the two competitions staged this term already, are into the second round along with TJ Dowling and Robert Murphy.
Meanwhile, arguably the tie of the first round sees 2016 National Championship runner-up Jonathan Williams up against John O’Sullivan.
Jason Devaney meets Oisín Bateman, Peter Donegan challenges Rodney Goggins, while Arrons Holland and Hill clash in an intriguing tie between two of the younger up-and-coming talents in Ireland.
Like in the last tournament, a change to the scheduling rules means that no match will start after 10pm on Saturday, with any further rounds to be played either mid-week or the following weekend.
One positive thing about this event is the return of the live streaming service that was controversially not available at the beginning of the campaign.
The streaming, which consists of four tables, will include live scoring and breaks from each match.