The 2018 RIBSA Senior Irish National Championship gets under on Saturday at the Ivy Rooms in Carlow.
A highly respectable total of 85 amateur competitors, considerably the highest number to enter an event this season, are in the field for the country’s most prestigious individual crown.
After triumphs in two out of the last three editions, Brendan O’Donoghue returns as one of the favourites again on this occasion.
If the Nenagh native were to match his 2017 success, when he overcame Rodney Goggins 7-3 in the final, he would equal the modern day record of four titles that is currently held by Martin McCrudden.
O’Donoghue, who won the RIBSA Premier Cup earlier in this campaign and lies second in the rankings for this term, starts from the round of 64 on Sunday and awaits the winner of the preliminary round tie between Glen Redden and Tyler O’Connor.
There’ll be no repeat of last year’s final anyway as Goggins, champion in two senior ranking events since November, is in the same half of the draw as the third seed.
Top ranked Dubliner Michael Judge, who also bagged a brace of titles this season, faces Shane Sexton in the first round while 2016 champion TJ Dowling will play either Peter Dunne or Benny O’Brien.
That quartet will be considered as among the most experienced and therefore most likely to progress to the business end of the competition, with the line-up being whittled down this weekend to the final 16 who will battle out for overall glory in two weekends time.
A competitive field will ensure that nothing is guaranteed and it’ll be interesting to see who can emerge unscathed from the early stages to guarantee their participation in May.
David Morris, who won a hat-trick of consecutive Irish National Championship trophies before turning pro more than a decade ago, is up against Frank Sarsfield while another former Main Tour stalwart in Joe Delaney faces veteran John McBride in the preliminary round.
There’ll be a lot of focus too on the current crop of cueists from Cork who have begun to be more successful on the Irish circuit of late.
Greg Casey, David Cassidy, and Ryan Cronin, as well as young trio Ross Bulman, Aaron Hill, and Noel Landers have proven to be dangerous over the last year or two.
Meanwhile, SnookerHQ’s very own Jonathan Williams, the 2016 Irish National Championship runner-up, will aim to finish his season on a high and meets Michael Mullin first.
Live streaming of the event is expected to be provided on the RIBSA.ie website here.