We reach the halfway mark of the qualifying competition for the Northern Ireland Open on Thursday when another 16 players descend on Wigan looking to find the win they need to book their flight to Belfast later in the season.
We haven’t had too many in the way of big names over the course of the week yet but they start coming along on Thursday when one match in particular jumps off the schedule. The matches take place across four sessions once again.
As appears to be the case throughout all of these qualifying events, two Chinese players take to the baize. Lu Ning was a win away from winning the Championship League earlier in the campaign and he goes up against the competent Jak Jones in one of the matches. It might be that the higher profile one comes on the other table where the talented Chinese player Yuan Sijun takes on the legend of the game in the form of Jimmy White.
Early Afternoon Session
This is the session where the heavyweight blockbuster of a qualifying match comes along as two men who have competed in a World Championship final earlier in their careers meet when Ali Carter takes on Ding Junhui in what is a dog of a draw for both men. The other table action shouldn’t be too shabby either. Scott Donaldson is in action there and he’ll go up against the competent but inconsistent these days Alfie Burden.
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Later Afternoon Session
The good level of action is set to continue in the third session of the day when Liam Highfield is the star attraction on show in terms of the rankings. He faces an awkward test against Michael White who has very much hit the ground running in his first season back on the tour. Another man who has done that is Dean Young. He beat Liang Wenbo to reach the British Open next month and will be looking to take care of Louis Heathcote to make it through to Northern Ireland.
There are two more matches left in the day and they should be decent in their own right as well. Tom Ford is the highest ranked player on show and he’ll be looking to get up and running for the season having lost in the opening phase of the first three events. He faces Sanderson Lam for a place in Belfast. The other match sees Mark Joyce looking to make it through to the main draw of the first Home Nations event of the season. He takes on Alexander Ursenbacher.
Mark Joyce has made a better start to the season than many might have thought that he would and that can continue on Thursday evening when he takes on Alexander Ursenbacher. The Swiss player has plenty of potential but having finished last season with just two wins since the English Open last September, he hasn’t really kicked on much this term and the fact that his British Open qualifier has been held over to the venue and he lost his European Masters qualifier, Ursenbacher hasn’t played a competitive match for more than a month.
That has to be a disadvantage to anyone who has been playing more frequently let alone a Joyce who has been winning matches in that time. He walloped Stephen Hendry to make it through to Furth last week and then beat Sean O’Sullivan when he was there before going down to Jamie Jones. In between that he saw off Daniel Wells to qualify for the British Open and took care of Jack Lisowski in the Championship League. Joyce has started the season scoring fairly well and looks to have the beating of a potentially rusty Ursenbacher here.
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