The second ranking event of the Irish RIBSA (Republic of Ireland Billiards and Snooker Association) campaign takes place this weekend with The Hickson’s Centra Open in County Kildare.
As per the decision to stage the tournaments during this season across the country, as opposed to solely at the Ivy Rooms in Carlow which had become the norm in campaigns past, the action will unfold at Celbridge Snooker Club on Saturday and Sunday.
The early signs of this change are promising with an encouraging 75 entries into the Hickson’s Centra Open – the most for a regular season ranking event on the RIBSA domestic scene for many years.
There is no doubt that the Ivy Rooms has wonderful facilities that should be utilised on a regular basis but, from the outside looking in, it always appeared like it made more sense to spread the events around.
Hopefully, this trend of an increase in numbers will continue and there will be a prolonged influx of fresh faces, who wouldn’t otherwise have made a trip to Carlow but who now can at least enter their local rankers to gain some experience.
David Morris, who opened the 2018/19 term by triumphing in the Barracks Classic in Letterkenny, was hopeful that the change would bring about renewed interest in the game in Ireland.
The Kilkenny cueist told SnookerHQ after his victory last month: “Obviously, I prefer it in Carlow because I live within a half hour and it is very convenient.”
“But maybe the change will bring new people to Irish snooker by going to other places around the county.
“I’m going to try and take the positives out of the tournaments going around the country but I hope tables are up to scratch and the clubs are big enough to host them.
“It will be interesting to see if the tournaments produce 20 or 30 new faces from the clubs they are being held in to go along with the usual 60 or so that came to play in Carlow.
“That would bring numbers up close to 100 so these new venues should encourage local club players to enter for the experience of playing in RIBSA events.”
Morris, whose first round opponent on Saturday is experienced competitor Mark Tuite, is the defending champion in the Hickson’s Centra Open and will be one of the favourites to lift the title again this weekend.
National champion Michael Judge, who narrowly lost to Morris in the final at the Northwest Snooker Club in September, also has a tricky first challenge in David Cassidy – one of numerous talented Cork cueists in the field.
Brendan O’Donoghue meets James Fennessy, while one of the other standout fixtures in the first round sees Dublin’s Philip Browne up against former European under-21 champion Josh Boileau.
The likes of Rodney Goggins – who appeared in this week’s UK Seniors Championship in Hull – TJ Dowling, Greg Casey, Joe Delaney, Aaron Hill, Ross Bulman, and leading Irish women’s player Paula Judge are in the line-up as well.