The venue stages of the 2023 Northern Ireland Open start on Sunday with Mark Allen and Judd Trump among the marquee names in the draw.
The build-up to this year’s edition of the Home Nations tournament has been dominated by the controversy surrounding the so-called Macau Five.
It has resulted in a number of high-profile absentees, including world champion Luca Brecel.
World number one Ronnie O’Sullivan also withdrew on the eve of the main event under separate circumstances, citing medical reasons.
However, it is still expected to be an exciting week of action at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.
The Northern Ireland Open represents the sixth ranking event of the 2023/24 season, with Judd Trump having won the previous two on the calendar.
Prize, History, and Format
The Northern Ireland Open has been an annual fixture on the snooker schedule since 2016.
In 2023, it represents the fourth leg of this term’s European Series that is sponsored by BetVictor.
The leading money earner after eight counting tournaments will receive a handsome bonus, with last season’s winner Robert Milkins pocketing £150,000.
The top prize in the Northern Ireland Open itself, meanwhile, is a handy £80,000.
Mark Allen is the two-time defending champion, with the Antrim man bidding to capture the Alex Higgins Trophy on home soil for a third year on the trot.
That would match Judd Trump’s previous hat-trick of titles in the competition between 2018 and 2020.
Marks King and Williams are the other former champions, with only the latter among those two participating this year.
The majority of the first-round ties were held during last week in Sheffield, so most of the last-64 field is already known.
However, the top 16 seeds have had their round-of-128 fixtures held over to the venue.
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.
2023 Northern Ireland Open draw
Allen begins the defence of his crown with a difficult opening tie against up-and-coming talent Ben Mertens.
Trump plays Jenson Kendrick and is looking to become only the fifth player in history to win three ranking events in a row after Ray Reardon, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, and Ding Junhui.
Williams, the champion in 2017 and a recent British Open winner, faces Tian Pengfei.
Elsewhere, Shaun Murphy and Barry Hawkins – this season’s other ranking event champions – entertain Ryan Thomerson and Elliot Slessor respectively.
Luca Brecel, Mark Selby, John Higgins, Ali Carter, and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh are not in the Northern Ireland Open draw.
The quintet was involved in the recent fiasco surrounding their intended involvement in an exhibition event in Macau that coincided with the dates for Northern Ireland.
Ding Junhui is additionally not in this tournament, which could damage his chances of securing an automatic spot for the upcoming UK Championship in York.
Ronnie O’Sullivan was the latest high-profile name to pull out, the Rocket now having missed four out of the opening six ranking events of this term.
Northern Ireland Open Draw
Round of 128 (bo7)
Mark Allen 4-0 Ben Mertens
Andres Petrov 4-3 Sanderson Lam
Graeme Dott 4-0 Oliver Lines
David Grace 0-4 Zihao Xing
Ricky Walden 4-2 Ben Woollaston
Allan Taylor 1-4 Dominic Dale
Stuart Bingham 4-3 Ashley Hugill
Xu Si 4-2 Alexander Ursenbacher
Mohamed Ibrahim 2-4 Dean Young
Matthew Selt 4-1 Andy Lee
Liam Graham 0-4 Jackson Page
Jack Lisowski 4-1 Rebecca Kenna
David Lilley 1-4 Aaron Hill
Fan Zhengyi 4-2 Liu Hongyu
Dylan Emery 4-3 Martin Gould
Robert Milkins 3-4 Cao Yupeng
Shaun Murphy 4-2 Ryan Thomerson
Marco Fu 4-2 Jamie Jones
Joe O’Connor 2-4 Zak Surety
Andrew Higginson 2-4 Sean O’Sullivan
Ryan Day 3-4 Ma Hailong
Martin O’Donnell 4-3 Daniel Wells
Chris Wakelin 4-0 Anthony Hamilton
Alfie Burden 4-3 Mostafa Dorgham
Rod Lawler 4-0 Baipat Siripaporn
Zhou Yuelong 2-4 Stan Moody
Andrew Pagett 3-4 Lukas Kleckers
Gary Wilson 4-3 Louis Heathcote
Jamie Clarke 4-3 Alfie Davies
Xiao Guodong 1-4 Yuan Sijun
Jordan Brown 4-2 Stuart Carrington
Neil Robertson 4-1 Wu Yize
Judd Trump 4-1 Jenson Kendrick
Adam Duffy 1-4 Julien Leclercq
Pang Junxu 2-4 Ian Burns
Liam Highfield 3-4 Ken Doherty
Anthony McGill 4-3 Jimmy White
Robbie McGuigan 4-1 Muhammad Asif
Noppon Saengkham 4-0 Himanshu Jain
Manasawin Phetmalaikul 3-4 Barry Pinches
Mink Nutcharut 2-4 Michael White
Joe Perry 4-2 Ishpreet Singh Chadha
Long Zehuang 1-4 Anton Kazakov
Hossein Vafaei 4-1 Mark Joyce
James Cahill 4-1 Duane Jones
Stephen Maguire 4-3 Fergal O’Brien
Reanne Evans 0-4 Hammad Miah
Kyren Wilson 3-4 Sam Craigie
Mark Williams 4-1 Tian Pengfei
Liam Pullen 1-4 Robbie Williams
Si Jiahui 1-4 Zhang Anda
John Astley 0-4 Rory Thor
Barry Hawkins 4-1 Elliot Slessor
Andy Hicks 2-4 Jiang Jun
Jimmy Robertson 4-2 Sydney Wilson
Peng Yison 4-1 He Guoqiang
Matthew Stevens 4-2 Stephen Hendry
David Gilbert 4-1 Joel Connolly
Lyu Haotian 4-1 Ashley Carty
Tom Ford 4-0 Haydon Pinhey
Scott Donaldson 0-4 Mark Davis
Jak Jones 4-0 Oliver Brown
Victor Sarkis 2-4 Ross Muir
Rory McLeod 4-0 Ahmed Aly Elsayed
Round of 64 (bo7)
Mark Allen 3-4 Andres Petrov
Graeme Dott 1-4 Xing Zihao
Ricky Walden 4-3 Dominic Dale
Stuart Bingham 4-1 Xu Si
Dean Young 3-4 Matthew Selt
Jackson Page 1-4 Jack Lisowski
Aaron Hill 4-1 Fan Zhengyi
Dylan Emery 4-3 Cao Yupeng
Shaun Murphy 4-3 Marco Fu
Zak Surety 3-4 Sean O’Sullivan
Ma Hailong 1-4 Martin O’Donnell
Chris Wakelin 4-2 Alfie Burden
Rod Lawler 1-4 Stan Moody
Lukas Kleckers 1-4 Gary Wilson
Jamie Clarke 0-4 Yuan Sijun
Jordan Brown 4-1 Neil Robertson
Judd Trump 4-0 Julien Leclercq
Ian Burns 4-2 Ken Doherty
Anthony McGill 4-3 Robbie McGuigan
Noppon Saengkham 4-1 Barry Pinches
Michael White 3-4 Joe Perry
Anton Kazakov 0-4 Hossein Vafaei
James Cahill 2-4 Stephen Maguire
Hammad Miah 2-4 Sam Craigie
Mark Williams 2-4 Robbie Williams
Zhang Anda 4-1 Rory Thor
Barry Hawkins 4-1 Jiang Jun
Jimmy Robertson 4-0 Peng Yisong
Matthew Stevens 3-4 David Gilbert
Lyu Haotian 4-3 Tom Ford
Mark Davis 2-4 Jak Jones
Ross Muir 3-4 Rory McLeod
Round of 32 (bo7)
Andres Petrov 1-4 Xing Zihao
Ricky Walden 4-1 Stuart Bingham
Matthew Selt 1-4 Jack Lisowski
Aaron Hill 4-0 Dylan Emery
Shaun Murphy 4-0 Sean O’Sullivan
Martin O’Donnell 1-4 Chris Wakelin
Stan Moody 4-2 Gary Wilson
Yuan Sijun 4-2 Jordan Brown
Judd Trump 4-2 Ian Burns
Anthony McGill 0-4 Noppon Saengkham
Joe Perry 4-3 Hossein Vafaei
Stephen Maguire 4-2 Sam Craigie
Robbie Williams 4-1 Zhang Anda
Barry Hawkins 4-1 Jimmy Robertson
David Gilbert 4-1 Lyu Haotian
Jak Jones 3-4 Rory McLeod
Round of 16 (bo7)
Xing Zihao 1-4 Ricky Walden
Jack Lisowski 4-1 Aaron Hill
Shaun Murphy 2-4 Chris Wakelin
Stan Moody 2-4 Yuan Sijun
Judd Trump 4-3 Noppon Saengkham
Joe Perry 3-4 Stephen Maguire
Robbie Williams 0-4 Barry Hawkins
David Gilbert 4-0 Rory McLeod
Ricky Walden 1-5 Jack Lisowski
Chris Wakelin 5-2 Yuan Sijun
Judd Trump 5-4 Stephen Maguire
Barry Hawkins 5-4 David Gilbert
Jack Lisowski 1-6 Chris Wakelin
Judd Trump 6-4 Barry Hawkins
Chris Wakelin 3-9 Judd Trump
Where to watch the Northern Ireland Open
The tournament will be available to UK and Irish viewers on DMAX in addition to blanket Eurosport and discovery+ coverage provided across all of Europe.
Various broadcasters around the world will be offering coverage too (information here), while fans in territories without another service can access the event through Matchroom.Live.
Featured image credit: WST