Handballers from all over Ireland, as well as a large group from England, will travel to the Breaffy House Hotel in Mayo this weekend to compete in the GAA Handball One-Wall Nationals.
With the largest ever entry of close to 400 Irish handballers, and a party of 20 from England, the 14th Annual One-Wall Nationals, promises to be a spectacular event. Breaffy will host the event for the second consecutive year following a hugely successful affair in 2009. With five courts now permanently erected in the 30,000 sq ft Keith Wood Sports Centre, Breaffy is now the top venue for One-Wall handball in the country.
“Last year proved a milestone in Irish handball history, and marked the beginning of a new dawn for the one-wall code in this country,” said GAA Handball President, Tony Hannon.
“One-Wall is very popular in Europe and America, particularly New York, but it has taken Ireland a while to embrace it; now that we have, there’s no looking back.”
This weekend, reigning Men’s Open champion, Armagh’s Charly Shanks will be back to defend his crown, while Mayo’s Dessie Keegan, beaten in last year’s final, will be hoping to avenge that defeat. World 40x20 champion, and recently crowned US Nationals winner, Cavan’s Paul Brady returns to the one-wall stage following national success in 2008.
The Ladies Open brings together the top names in the game of handball, with Roscommon’s Marianna Rushe, who collected the title in 2009, back to retain her crown. Fellow county women, Leona Doolin and Deirdre Donohoe, will be hoping to take down their St Coman’s colleague. Down’s Lorraine Havern will also provide a massive threat to Rushe’s title defence, while Kildare’s Anna Wrynn is a strong candidate for honours.
The underage grades will be contested by almost 200 handballers, who will compete in eight grades, ranging from U-12 to U-23. In total, there will be court action across 20 events, with the Over 70s catering for players up to 83 years of age. Jim Kennedy, from Fermoy, played in the Over 80s Final at the World Championships in Portland, Oregon last October and now he is back in competitive action in the Over 70s grade.
As handballers from around the country gather in the Keith Wood Arena this weekend, expectations will be high, but the foundations for success were well planted last June and hopefully, the three days of action will bring the game of one-wall to a new level in Irish handball.