World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and home favourite Mark Allen are among those featuring in the 2022 Northern Ireland Open draw.
The fourth ranking event of a stagnated 2022/23 season gets under way on Sunday at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.
After several months of stop-start action on the baize, there is finally set to be a more consistent string of events in the next couple of months.
Last weekend, a restricted field of eight took part in the Hong Kong Masters won by O’Sullivan, but the majority of the Main Tour pros will be involved in the 2022 Northern Ireland Open.
Prize, History, and Format
The Northern Ireland Open has been an annual fixture on the calendar since 2016 when it was the second event on the newly branded Home Nations series that also included Opens in England, Scotland, and Wales.
All of those events remain on the schedule, but they now make up half the eight-leg European Series that is sponsored by BetVictor.
The leading money earner after those tournaments during this term will receive a handsome bonus, with last season’s winner John Higgins pocketing £150,000.
The top prize in the Northern Ireland Open itself is £80,000, a welcome increase of £10,000 from previous editions.
Allen is the top seed in this year’s Northern Ireland Open draw, the Antrim man having famously won on home soil twelve months ago with a 9-8 defeat of Higgins in the final.
While there were “qualifiers” of sorts in August, all of the top 16 seeds from the world rankings have had their first-round matches held over to Belfast, which means they will have to win an extra match from here on in order to lift the Alex Higgins Trophy next Sunday.
The format remains the same as in previous editions, with best-of-seven matches for the first four rounds, and a gradual increase thereafter until the best-of-17 final.
2022 Northern Ireland Open Draw
Allen begins his defence with a heldover last 128 tie against Chang Bingyu, with the winner set to face Chen Zifan in the last 64.
Judd Trump, Mark Williams, and Mark King are the other three former champions in the field.
The latter has already booked his spot in the next round thanks to a 4-3 triumph over Oliver Lines at the Robin Park Leisure Centre in Wigan.
Williams gets his week up and running with a clash against Peter Lines, while three-time winner Trump entertains Rod Lawler.
Fresh off his Hong Kong Masters success a few days ago, world number one O’Sullivan takes on Lukas Kleckers.
All the major contenders are participating, including Higgins, Neil Robertson, and Mark Selby.
heldover fixtures to be played on Sunday and Monday
Mark Allen vs Chang Bingyu
Ricky Walden vs Xiao Guodong
Kyren Wilson vs Ken Doherty
Mark Williams vs Peter Lines
Neil Robertson vs Fraser Patrick
Jack Lisowski vs Li Hang
Barry Hawkins vs Anthony Hamilton
Mark Selby vs Reanne Evans
Judd Trump vs Rod Lawler
Stuart Bingham vs Allan Taylor
Zhou Yuelong vs Joel Connolly/Robbie McGuigan
Shaun Murphy vs Xu Si
John Higgins vs Fergal O’Brien
Zhao Xintong vs Lyu Haotian
Luca Brecel vs Joe O’Connor
Yan Bingtao vs Liang Wenbo
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Lukas Kleckers
fixtures to be played from Monday to Wednesday
Allen/Chang vs Chen Zifan
Andy Lee vs Dylan Emery
Walden/Xiao vs Mink Nutcharut
Hossein Vafaei vs Craig Steadman
Zak Surety vs Stephen Maguire
Sean O’Sullivan vs K. Wilson/Doherty
Andy Hicks vs Jimmy Robertson
Alexander Ursenbacher vs M. Williams/P. Lines
N. Robertson/Patrick vs Fan Zhengyi
Ben Woollaston vs John Astley
Lisowski/Li vs Si Jiahui
Jordan Brown vs Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
M. White vs Ding Junhui
Louis Heathcote vs Hawkins/Hamilton
Hammad Miah vs Lu Ning
Sam Craigie vs Selby/Evans
Trump/Lawler vs Aaron Hill
Tom Ford vs Scott Donaldson
Bingham/Taylor vs David Lilley
David Gilbert vs Noppon Saengkham
Dominic Dale vs Zhou/Connolly/McGuigan
Jamie Clarke vs Murphy/Xu
Gerard Greene vs Robert Milkins
Jackson Page vs Higgins/O’Brien
Zhao/Lyu vs Mark King
Joe Perry vs Daniel Wells
Brecel/O’Connor vs Jimmy White
Matthew Selt vs Pang Junxu
Julien Leclercq vs Anthony McGill
Elliot Slessor vs Yan/Liang
Tian Pengfei vs Martin Gould
David Grace vs R. O’Sullivan/Kleckers
Where to Watch the Northern Ireland Open
The tournament will be available to UK and Irish viewers on Quest TV in addition to blanket Eurosport coverage provided across all of Europe.
Various broadcasters around the world will be offering coverage (information here), while fans in territories without another service can access the event through Matchroom.Live.
Featured image credit: WST