Tuamgraney handball club, County Clare, will pay homage to one of its former clubmen and plausibly the supreme exponent of the game across the world, Pat Kirby, this weekend as part of the club’s centenary year celebrations.
Presently living in the States, Kirby collected four successive All-Ireland senior softball singles titles (1974-77) and six consecutive 40x20 medals (1975-80) before travelling to the USA where he dominated the USHA Masters play. He regularly captured titles in age divisions 10 years younger than he was eligible to compete.
He became the first Irish member of the prestigious USA Hall of Fame in 1986 and he remains the sole Irish player acknowledged at this handball museum in Tucson, Arizona, which serves as America's shrine to the game’s greatest.
Kirby started playing at the age of seven in his home club of Tuamgraney before going on to achieve great feats, including 16 Irish National championships and three world titles. He was the first player to win national titles in three different countries - Canada, USA and Ireland.
Last December, Kirby was recognised at the 2010 GAA Handball Awards at Croke Park as one of the legends to have graced the courts at home alongside his brother John, Dick Lyng (Wexford), Joey Maher (Louth), Tommy O'Rourke (Kildare), Ducksy Walsh (Kilkenny), Walter O'Connor (Meath), Tom Sheridan (Meath) and current kingpin, Eoin Kennedy (Dublin).
Then, the ‘Weekend Warrior’ as he was nicknamed after winning 13 of 15 weekend invitational events in one year in America, couldn’t make the trip to receive his award and linked up via video satellite from California.
At this weekend’s special centenary festival, he will be in attendance to give a coaching session alongside Kilkenny’s Ducksy Walsh, and at a gala dinner on Saturday night he will be recognised with all Tuamgraney’s former All-Ireland winning senior champions.
Meanwhile, the action continues in the All-Ireland 60x30 Club Championships when current holders Ballaghadereen put their title on the line.
The Mayo side which have now dominated both the 40x20 and 60x30 club competitions for the most part of the last decade are highly fancied to overcome St. Coman's, Roscommon in the provincial battle before accounting for Cashel of Tipperary in the semi-finals.
If the highly experienced combination of Joe McCann, Dessie Keegan, Paul Flynn, Vinnie Moran and Campbell Brennan do advance to next weekend’s Open Softball club showdown, rivals Kells of Meath lie in wait.
Ballaghadereen, who are led by the potent Keegan, opened up a 36-point gap for the Connaught side in last season’s final, when they cruised to victory, pounding Limerick’s Broadford in a one sided showdown.