Steve Davis has been drawn against Ireland’s Fergal O’Brien for his first World Championship qualifier in a latest bid to get back to the Crucible as a player.

Six-time world champion Davis, 58, is of course now retired from the tour but was able to take advantage of a special wildcard offered to former winners.

Many fans would have liked to see more of those ex-champions eligible taking advantage of this offer, with arguably the demand for all things nostalgia never greater in snooker.

Some understandably might have been a bit nervous about not competing properly and ending up on the wrong end of a hammering.

But Davis has never been one to put any loss of personal face above things that might generate wider interest for the sport – and in addition has a special motivation this year.

The ‘Nugget’ revealed just days ago that he is playing in the tournament as a tribute to his late father and mentor Bill who sadly died last week at the age of 89.

To get back to the Crucible Davis, winner of a record 81 titles as a professional, must win three tough best-of-19 matches at Ponds Forge in Sheffield.

Dublin veteran O’Brien, 44, is currently ranked world No39 and is a former British Open winner. So that is a combined age of 102, as if either needs reminding.

All 128 players involved in the quest to secure one of the 16 spots in the main draw will have been glued to the World Snooker Youtube site on Monday morning.

Media chief Ivan Hirschowitz and World Snooker director Nigel Oldfield did the honours with the balls and the bag, and the fun all starts for real on Wednesday.

China’s No1 Ding Junhui was the big shock name in the qualifiers, having slipped to No17 in the rankings just two years after winning a record-equalling five ranking titles in one season.

And Ding will play amateur Greg Casey, 25, from Cork in the first round.

Another former world champion, Ireland’s Ken Doherty, will take on former Crucible semi-finalist Andy Hicks.

And six-time runner-up Jimmy White, 53, will take on Northern Ireland’s Gerard Greene.

Shanghai Masters champion Kyren Wilson, strongly tipped to get to the Crucible, will fancy his chances against the 45-year-old Jason Weston. And ladies’ world champion Ng On Yee will play Leeds’ Peter Lines.


Photograph courtesy of Monique Limbos