Former champion Ken Doherty is among seven Irish players who will begin the quest to reach this year's rescheduled World Snooker Championship when the qualifiers begin on Tuesday.

The 16 left standing from 128 entrants will join the world's top 16, including Northern Ireland's fourth seed Mark Allen, at the Crucible from 31 July. The tournament was originally due to begin at the end of April but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Doherty, who won the title in 1997 and was runner-up in '98 and 2003, has not qualified for the tournament proper since reaching the second round in 2014.

The Dubliner (50), now ranked 64th in the world, will face either Scotland's Fraser Patrick (ranked 122nd) or 18-year-old Englishman Sean Maddocks in the second of four qualifying rounds, which will take place amid strict social-distancing rules at the Institute of Sport in Sheffield

Fergal O'Brien also begins in round two and will meet either Cork youngster Ross Bulman or England's Rod Lawler.

Another teenager from Cork. Aaron Hill, competes against China's Chen Feilong in round one while Northern Ireland's Gerard Greene faces Frenchman Brian Ochoiski.

Jordan Brown will play either Billy Joe Castle or Rory McLeod in round two.

World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn today confirmed the upcoming Championship will be among the first sports events in the UK to pilot the safe return of spectators in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown.

A limited number of spectators will be allowed into the Crucible for every session of the tournament, which runs for two weeks from 31 July.

Hearn said: "Following extensive discussions with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and Nigel Huddleston MP in recent weeks, we are delighted that the Betfred World Championship has been picked among the very small number of sports events for this pilot project.

"We will be the only indoor sporting event with a crowd. This highlights the government's confidence in snooker and our ability to safely welcome back fans at one of the biggest sporting events on the planet."

The move may not be met by universal approval, with five-time world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan reportedly stating last week that he could pull out due to safety concerns if any crowd is allowed.

Ross Bulman

Other notable competitors in the qualifiers, include former champions Doherty and Graeme Dott, and former finalists Jimmy White, Ali Carter, Matthew Stevens and Nigel Bond.

Ukrainian Iulian Boiko, who will become the youngest ever player in the qualifiers, has already secured a two-year tour card and proclaimed his desire to emulate Ronnie O'Sullivan and become the dominant player of his era.

In an interview with Eurosport Russia last month, the 14-year-old praised reigning champion Trump but added: "I like the way Trump plays, I like his style of play, but the technique itself is quite clumsy."

White (58), who last reached the final stages of the tournament in 2006, starts in the first qualifying round against Russia's Ivan Kakovsky.

Reigning women's world champion Reanne Evans starts her campaign against 1995 semi-finalist Andy Hicks, who is aiming to reach the Crucible for the first time since 2007.