Northern Ireland Open draw
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Northern Ireland Open Draw and Preview

The Champion of Champions isn’t over yet in Coventry but the action will continue on Monday with the first shots taken in the 2019 Northern Ireland Open draw.

A fixture on the calendar since the introduction of the Home Nations series in 2016, the ranking event in Belfast has become one of the more popular to follow.

Judd Trump is the defending champion, returning to the scene of where his year-long rise back to the top of the sport all began.

Since triumphing at the Waterfront Hall twelve months ago, Trump has captured an additional five titles – including the World Championship and the prestigious Masters.

The Englishman could add another this weekend as he takes on Neil Robertson in the final of the Champion of Champions in Coventry, only a week after landing the World Open crown in Yushan.

Trump is undoubtedly the best player in the world at the moment and he will be the man to beat over the coming week.

The best of seven frames format utilised up until the quarter-finals will act as a leveller and there’ll be a few hoping to catch the world champion cold early on.

James Cahill, who memorably ousted Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round at the Crucible earlier this year, represents the 30 year-old’s first opposition.

O’Sullivan, meanwhile, hasn’t won a ranking event since the Tour Championship and remains alongside Stephen Hendry on the all-time winners list with 36 titles.

Some might suggest it would be humorous for the “Rocket” to surpass the Scot next month at the Scottish Open, when the Stephen Hendry Trophy is up for grabs.

O’Sullivan, who meets Oliver Lines in the opening round, has a very relaxed approach to the tour at present and doesn’t really give off the impression that he cares very much either way.

Despite Trump’s superior form, O’Sullivan remains several bookmakers’ narrow favourite for glory. Many sites like have an extensive list of information for free bets from all the major online betting outlets.

The majority of the heavy hitters are set to participate in the Northern Ireland Open draw, with 2017 champion Mark Williams the only notable absentee.

Australia’s Robertson will get his week going against Mark Joyce while fellow former world champion John Higgins faces emerging Chinese star Chang Bingyu.

Significant attention will revolve around Mark Selby’s progress through the rounds as the Leicester man is the only player left in the hunt for the unlikely £1 million bonus for bagging all four Home Nations titles.

Selby emerged victorious at the English Open last month to end a barren run on home soil and will entertain Xu Si in the last 128 on Monday.

Home interest will, of course, be focussed on Mark Allen with the Antrim man the biggest star to come out of the region since the days of Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor.

Allen has so far failed to impress in the Northern Ireland Open, though, with a sole quarter-final appearance to his name from three years ago followed by disappointing early exits in the last two seasons.

As usual, these tournaments can be difficult to predict from the outset because matches are being completed at a frenetic pace and it won’t really be until the last eight is determined that we’ll get a better glimpse at what the outcome might materialise to be.

However, a few of the other interesting initial clashes include 2016 champion Mark King’s bout with the in-form Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and a battle of the veteran legends between Jimmy White and Peter Ebdon.

One additional point of interest is that there are only two tournaments left that will count towards the Race to the Masters pecking order.

Following the Northern Ireland Open and the UK Championship, the top 16 competitors who will feature in January’s Triple Crown major at the Alexandra Palace will be determined.

There are several high-profile players on the cut-off line with former champion Ding Junhui currently just inside in 16th spot and Ali Carter a spot below in 17th.

Ding’s first round opponent is David Lilley while Robert Milkins represents two-time World Championship finalist Carter’s opening challenge.

Live coverage is on Eurosport and Quest TV.

Click here to view the Northern Ireland Open draw (Times: CET)

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