CASTLEDERG snooker star Dermot McGlinchey will be back on the baize next week as part of the Cue Zone team at the Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.
Kicking off on Monday in the Titanic Exhibition Centre, the competition sees 128 players compete for a top prize of £70,000.
The Northern Ireland Open is one of dozens of new competitions introduced by World Snooker chief Barry Hearn and the winner will be the recipient of the trophy named after two time world champion Alex Higgins who died in 2010.
Another of Hearn’s developments as he continues to rebrand snooker for a 21st century audience has been the Cue Zone.
Its main objective is to get people, particularly young people, involved in the sport. And for three days next week that is exactly where former European Championship semi-finalist Dermot McGlinchey will be.
Dermot will be putting those hoping to be the next Mark Allen, Joe Swail or even Dermot McGlinchey through their paces on Tuesday, Wednesday and again on the day of the big final, Sunday.
The Castlederg cueist said he was delighted to be invited to participate in an event that is set to become a permanent fixture on the snooker calendar.
“Myself and Anthony Heaney were asked did we want to do the Cue Zone and we said no problem at all,” Dermot said.
“It’s a great opportunity to highlight snooker and hopefully get more people playing the game. The Cue Zone has a big emphasis on getting young people playing and that is what I want to see, young people coming through and enjoying the game.”
Another local favourite returning to the big stage is Patrick Wallace.
The Tyrone man reached the quarter finals of the World Championships back in 2001 and continues to be a serious contender on the amateur circuit.
The 47-year-old Dungannon man kicks off his campaign against the world number 106 Michael Georgiou.
For Dermot McGlinchey, himself a former Northern Ireland champion, the return of big time snooker could well have arrived at the ideal time.
He is currently coaching a number of up and coming talents, among them Jamie Lee Gardiner from Dunamanagh who last year potted his way to the Irish Under-12 Snooker Championship.
Dermot added, “It is fantastic to see a major snooker tournament back again, especially when you consider the size of the North. When you consider too some of the players who have come through from here, the likes of Dennis Taylor, Alex Higgins and now Mark Allen, it’s great to see snooker coming back again.”