The RIBSA Irish Championships are set to take place this weekend at the Ivy Rooms with 15 national titles up for grabs in Carlow.
The main focus will be on the Senior National Championship but there’ll be a lot of interest too on the junior categories, the Masters and women’s tournaments, as well as the billiards events that will be staged.
Defending senior national champion Brendan O’Donoghue, who was bidding for a record-equalling fourth crown in the modern era, crashed out in the preliminary rounds a couple of weeks ago.
Four other former champions are still in the hunt for glory, though, and a competitive last 16 line-up ensures that it won’t be a straightforward pick for glory this year.
O’Donoghue might have to wait another year for the opportunity to match Martin McCrudden’s four domestic titles but both David Morris and TJ Dowling are each in line to achieve the feat in 2018.
Morris, who captured a hat-trick of trophies between 2004 and 2006 before turning professional, faces Noel Landers – one of several Cork based competitors left in the draw – while Dowling meets Philip O’Connor.
Elsewhere, Michael Judge and Rodney Goggins have been scrapping at the top of the rankings list all season and, with a brace of triumphs apiece from the six ranking events staged throughout the campaign, will be the obvious favourites to advance to the business end of proceedings.
Both have tricky opening challenges on Friday with Judge, a former top 32 player on the Main Tour, up against David Cassidy while Goggins meets Dublin’s Joe Delaney.
One of the most intriguing ties sees teenage Cork duo Ross Bulman and Aaron Hill go up against each other with a spot in the quarter-finals at stake.
The pair enjoyed a breakthrough season in which both have featured in semi-finals of senior ranking events, most notably Hill who reached that stage in each of the last three events this year.
Hill will be a busy young man whatever happens in his Senior National Championship debut as he’ll also be contesting the finals of the Under-16, Under-18, and Under-21 Nationals Championships as well, while Bulman encounters Landers for the Under-19 trophy.
Meanwhile, two other Cork men in Greg Casey and Ryan Cronin will be seeking to finish their terms on a high and will face Philip Browne and John Torpey respectively.
Letterkenny players Aidan Devenney and Johnny Connors, who didn’t enter a single ranking event all season, possibly because of the long trip required to compete in Carlow, battle in an all North West Snooker Club fixture, rewarded for their prior victories over the highly-fancied Robert Murphy and Stephen Bateman.
In the Masters National Championship final, Rodney Goggins will meet Johnny Farrell while Michelle Sherwin will bid for a 15th national ladies title when she plays Claire Mill in a repeat of last year’s showdown.
Live streaming of the event will be available by clicking here.