Michael Judge and TJ Dowling both fell at the last 16 stage of the WSF Championship on Thursday – ending Irish interest in the inaugural staging of the international amateur competition in Malta.
Judge, as he had also done in the semi-finals of last week’s WSF Seniors Championship, lost out to Igor Figueiredo by a scoreline of 4-2, with the Brazilian remaining on course to complete the double at the Dolmen Hotel.
The pair looked set for a tense finale when the scores were locked at 2-2 following an exchange of closely-fought frames but Figueiredo compiled two timely breaks of 86 and 89 to progress to the last eight.
The 41 year-old will face top seed Adam Stefanow after the Polish player accounted for the last remaining home hope, beating Duncan Bezzina 4-1 aided by a high break of 70.
Meanwhile, three-time Irish national champion Dowling was in disappointing form as he bowed out in a whitewash against Chinese teenager Luo Honghao – the only Asian left in the draw.
Luo next faces Jamie Clarke, one of three Welshmen left in the running for the top prize, after the 23 year-old edged Kevin Hanssens in a nervy decider.
Clarke has narrowly missed out on international amateur glory on numerous occasions in the past with runners-up spots in a World Under-21 Championship and twice in the European Amateur Championship.
Alex Taubman and Kishan Hirani were the other two competitors from Wales to advance, both also courtesy of final frame clinchers against Kuldesh Johal and Lim Chun Kiat respectively.
Hirani has arguably the toughest tie on paper against Iceland’s Kristjan Helgason, who has been the standout high-scorer of the event with four centuries already to his name.
Taubman’s reward is a clash with Kacper Filipiak, the almost forgotten young Pole who made great waves a number of years ago by qualifying for the Main Tour as a teenager but has fallen off the radar somewhat since.
All eight players will be gunning for the title and with it a two-year card to compete on the professional Main Tour but, more imminently, there is a coveted prize for the winners of the quarter-finals.
That’s because all four semi-finalists in this year’s WSF Championship will gain an invite into the professional World Championship qualifiers next month in Sheffield, with three further victories separating them from an unlikely spot at the Crucible Theatre.
It promises to be a fascinating final two days in Malta.