We’re off to Belfast this weekend where a record 174 competitors will battle it out in the 2nd world ranking event of the season. Will we see another strong performance from the home players or will an overseas star follow in the footsteps of Belgian Dimitri Payne who won last year.
Here are our ones to watch!
Mark still finds himself top of the rankings despite missing last months Henselite UK Open. The 3 time SMPT winner will look to continue his outstanding record (which has seen him qualify for the Cup knockout in all of his previous events) by finishing in the top two spots of group 11. Standing in his way though are World No.3 Jonathan Payne and the ever consistent Paul Duff.
Mark would have been disappointed with last season’s results by his usual high standards. His best result saw him make the Quarter Finals at the European Masters. You can be certain however, that the 44yr old from Strabane will be fighting hard to gain his 4th title and retain his No.1 spot.
The 28yr old from South Benfleet has seen a resurgence in form over the last year, climbing back into the top 10 of the rankings. The former World No.1 has had to draw on his vast experience and now looks full of confidence as he bids to win that elusive first SMPT title.
Dom will be favourite to progress from group 1 and will then hope to have a good run in the knockouts. Can the former British Isles Champion go all the way? Only time will tell.
Regarded by many as the top bowler in the world, Kevin is always seen as one of the favourites in every event he enters. The 36yr old is yet to taste victory on the tour. Having played all of his events on home soil and boasting a 83.58 % win percentage, he’ll be keen to put things right and better his two silver medals.
Kevin should make it through from group 5 but he does have tricky ties against Welsh international Craig Evans & defending Champion and World No.2 Dimitri Payne, with this match being played on the Show Mat. Despite this, Kevin is bound to put in another strong performance and is always a force to be reckoned with.
It’s been a great 2016 so far for the Dumfries man. His rise of almost 60 places in the World Rankings is great reward for the effort that Lawrence has put in over the last few events. With 3 gold medals secured at the Cyprus Grand Prix back in June, he then went on to take his first ranking event title, winning last month’s Henselite UK Open.
Lawrence will feel confident of progression from group 7 but does face challenging matches against Glenn Harvey and ‘The Machine’ Joel Hager, who currently sits 4th in the rankings. Can the cool, calm Scot become the first player to win back to back ranking titles?
16yr old Shauna is one of eleven under 18s participating in this year’s Irish Open. With a strong junior coaching programme, Ireland are producing some very talented youngsters! Their typically fearless attitude was in evidence at April’s Henselite World Masters where Shauna handled the pressure of playing on the Show Mat and recorded the result of her life by defeating 3 – time SMPT winner Joe Beattie.
Shauna finds herself in an all Irish group 2 with World Cup winner Pauline Beattie & World Triples Champion Aidan Corrigan amongst others. Can she make the Cup Knockout and with it secure valuable points in the race for the Ryan O’Neill award?
The ever present Swede enjoys playing on the biggest stage of all and has a great record in Ireland. Qualification to the Cup knockout however will be tough for Dick as he finds himself alongside compatriot Jorgen Karlsson and Irish duo Nathan Haire & 2 time Tour winner Cecil Dillon in group 20 This will be the third meeting between Dick & Cecil and could prove pivotal in deciding group positions.
Can the World No.5 add a ranking event title to go with his 2-Bowl Masters title and World Cup winners medal? Many will fancy his chances and we will see if his practice and dedication will finally pay off.
As always you will be able to see all the results as they come in, you can view the constantly updated group tables and you can catch up on event highlights and listen to player interviews via the live feed on our website. Don’t forget we’ll have live, end by end updates of all Show Mat games too!