Barnsley is not necessarily the world’s best known sporting mecca but will this week become the latest in a long line of World Snooker qualifying venues.
The Metrodome has previously been associated with ten-pin bowling but from tomorrow will play host to the International Championship qualifiers, where the field of 128 will be reduced to 64.
Qualifying venues are rarely popular with players, often precisely because they are qualifying venues.
Blackpool, Newport, Stoke, Hereford, Prestatyn, Burton-on-Trent…not destinations for a Michael Palin travelogue series but former qualifying venues, hosts to thousands of matches, the vast majority now long forgotten.
Qualifiers are no fun for anyone. It’s all about getting through to the main venue, in this case many thousands of miles away in Chengdu. Defeat means few people recognise you were ever in the tournament to start with.
Ronnie O’Sullivan’s qualifier is against Joel Walker, a young lad he mentored three years ago on the Riley Futurestars programme.
Judd Trump, who pocketed £125,000 for winning the inaugural staging of the event last year, faces Cao Xinlong.
World no.1 Neil Robertson takes on Li Hang of China. Mark Selby, second in the world rankings, meets Londoner Martin O’Donnell.
Where might the shocks come?
Stephen Maguire could be vulnerable against Davy Morris, a quarter-finalist in the season-opening Wuxi Classic.
Mark Allen faces China’s Chen Zhe, known as ‘Sleepy’ but looking to give the Northern Irishman a wake-up call.
Shaun Murphy has so far suffered defeat in the last 128 of the first two ranking events to adopt the ‘flat’ system so will be looking to avoid an unwelcome hat-trick against Chris Keogan.
Matches are best of 11 frames. The International Championship was a prestigious innovation last season and a welcome addition to the calendar.
Not everyone can get to Barnsley on a Tuesday afternoon to watch snooker but, for those who can, entry is free.
And on Thursday it’s the qualifiers for the World Seniors Championship with a chance to glimpse some stars of yesteryear – Mike Hallett, Patsy Fagan and Dean Reynolds among them.