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Draw unkind to O'Brien as he faces top seed Selby in World Championship opener

Elsewhere, Mark Allen will take on Jimmy Robertson and Ronnie O’Sullivan begins his campaign against Gary Wilson.

Fergal O'Brien.
Fergal O'Brien.
Image: Anna Gowthorpe

THE 2017 WORLD Snooker Championship draw hasn’t been kind to Fergal O’Brien as the Dubliner will face top seed and defending champion Mark Selby in the first round of this year’s tournament.

O’Brien showed great resilience during qualifying in Ponds Forge over the past few days, defeating Northern Ireland’s Gerard Greene 10-6 in the first round before edging China’s Tian Pengfei and David Gilbert of England in successive 10-9 victories.

The 45-year-old was part of a piece of history in last night’s victory against Gilbert, the final frame being the longest on record, just 20 seconds short of two hours.

It is the first time O’Brien has qualified for the main draw since 2010 and he will have his work cut out against the two-time champion when the tournament gets under way in Sheffield this weekend.

The ‘Jester from Leicester’, who also claimed victory at The Crucible in 2014, is joined in the 32-man draw by seven other former world champions —  Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stuart Bingham, John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Graeme Dott, Shaun Murphy and Peter Ebdon.

O’Sullivan will take on Gary Wilson in the first round of this year’s tournament as he continues his bid for a sixth crown, which would see him equal the tallies of Steve Davis and Ray Reardon.

Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen opens his campaign against England’s Jimmy Robertson while number three seed Bingham will take on 2002 victor Ebdon.

Seventeen-year-old Chinese sensation Yan Bingtao’s clash against 2005 champion Murphy shapes up as one of the opening round’s most intriguing ties.

Ken Doherty, 20 years on from his solo World Championship crown, bowed out of qualifying in the second of the three rounds.

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1. Mark Selby (ENG) v Fergal O’Brien (IRE)
16. Ryan Day (WAL) v Xiao Guodong (CHI)
9. Neil Robertson (AUS) v Noppon Saengkham (THA)
8. Marco Fu (HKG) v Luca Brecel (BEL)
5. Shaun Murphy (ENG) v Yan Bingtao (CHI)
12. Ronnie O’Sullivan (ENG) v Gary Wilson (ENG)
13. Liang Wenbo (CHI) v Stuart Carrington (ENG)
4. Ding Junhui (CHI) v Zhou Yuelong (CHI)
3. Stuart Bingham (ENG) v Peter Ebdon (ENG)
14. Kyren Wilson (ENG) v David Grace (ENG)
11. Mark Allen (NIR) v Jimmy Robertson (ENG)
6. John Higgins (SCO) v Martin Gould (ENG)
7. Barry Hawkins (ENG) v Tom Ford (ENG)
10. Ali Carter (ENG) v Graeme Dott (SCO)
15. Anthony McGill (SCO) v Stephen Maguire (SCO)
2. Judd Trump (ENG) v Rory McLeod (ENG)

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Alan Waldron

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