This year’s GAA One-Wall Nationals is set to be one of the most talked-about events on the 2009 Irish Handball calendar.
With the largest ever entry, some exciting games are in store at the Breaffy House Resort this weekend.
There is an added element of anticipation about the Ladies’ and Men’s Open grades, with a place on the Irish Squad, bound for the World Championships in Portland, Oregon next October, for the two winners.
Over 250 handballers will converge at the Mayo venue for the 13th One-Wall Nationals, sponsored by Ladbrokes.
Many of the household names in the One-Wall game will take to the Breaffy courts over the three days, with last year’s beaten finalist, Mayo’s Dessie Keegan, out to avenge his defeat to Paul Brady in 2008.
Former Men’s Open champions - Carlow’s David King; Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy, Armagh’s James Doyle and 2007 champion, Charly Shanks, will all pose a major threat to Keegan title hopes over the weekend.
‘I always look forward to the One Wall because I feel that it's a great way to challenge yourself; it’s all about controlling the ball and maintaining composure,’ said Keegan.
‘Having the tournament at one venue will generate a fantastic atmosphere and it will be interesting to see the U-12s and Over 65s playing side by side.’
This year’s competition also has an international flavour, with 20 English handballers, led by team manager Richard Price, traveling over to take part in the event.
Last year, 10 of these players travelled to Sligo and recorded some fine victories over their Irish counterparts.
The entry in the ladies’ grades marks a major advancement in the game, with a total of 26 in the two adult grades.
There is also an added competitive edge to this year’s Ladies Open grade, with the winner grades going on to represent Ireland in the One-Wall Team Event at the World Championships.
Reigning champion, Marianna Rushe will be hoping to take back to back titles, but the likes of Lorraine Havern (Down), Leona Doolin (Roscommon) and Ashley Prendiville (Kerry) will have other ideas.