Ken Doherty will present Ronnie O’Sullivan with a stern opening round test – but has his own potential banana skin to clear first.
Doherty faces Gerard Greene in tonight’s live TV match at the Northern Ireland Trophy.
They’ve played eight times before and it’s four wins apiece, including victory for Greene at Belfast last year.
It is difficult to predict what Greene will do from one tournament to the next. He is capable of some very strong performances – as he proved by coming within a frame of reaching last season’s Royal London Watches Grand Prix final in Aberdeen.
But he is also capable of going to pieces, as he did against Mark Davis in the final qualifying round of the World Championship last March.
What will motivate him against Doherty is the location. Both of Greene’s parents are from Belfast and he will enjoy huge support at the Waterfront Hall.
Doherty, meanwhile, is starting his 20th season as a professional outside the elite top 16 for the first time in 16 years at 18th.
Two years ago he was second in the world rankings. Last year he was fourth.
It is quite a tumble down the list and the Dubliner failed to impress in the first World Series event in Jersey, losing in the first round to local wildcard Gary Britton.
However, I wouldn’t hold much store by that. Ken’s been putting in the work of late and recently won the Lucan Racing Classic, a tournament featuring Ireland’s best eight professionals.
He's been a pro since 1989 but I'm not sure experience counts for much these days - Steve Davis began his 31st season as a professional with defeat to Liang Wenbo last night.
It’s a big prize to get through to play O’Sullivan. It’s a big occasion as both players will attract a fair number of local supporters. It’s a big chance to make the perfect start to the season.
Therefore, my only prediction is plenty of tension when they cross cues this evening.