Armagh’s Charlie Shanks will play in his first US Pro Stop this weekend in the USA since the 28-year-old Lurgan born player moved to New York City last month.
Shanks has steadily climbed to the number two position in the Irish rankings in recent years, having advanced to his second successive GAA Handball All-Ireland senior final last May.
The Armagh man faltered at the hands of World and Irish number one, Cavan’s Paul Brady, at the final hurdle on both occasions.
With an intense training regime, including with the Sports Institute Elite Athletes Programme, combined with regular competitive action on the US circuit against some of the world’s best athletes this term, Shanks will once again be a serious challenger for all the major titles in 2012.
The Ulster man has enjoyed considerable success in his career to date, having scooped All-Ireland wins at minor and intermediate grades in the 40x20 and he has been the most dominant Irish performer in the one wall code.
He has also enjoyed his fair share of success on the international stage, which includes the US Collegiate title when representing Queen’s University in Minneapolis in 2005.
He will now play his handball out of the New York Athletic club in Midtown Manhattan, which is also home to some of the top US players, including Mike Schneider, Billy O'Donnell and Tyree Bastidas.
Shanks will join fellow Irish players, Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy and Cavan duo, Paul Brady and Michael Finnegan at the Los Caballeros Sports Village in Fountain Valley, California later this month for the Simple Green US Open of Handball.
Firstly, the talented Orchard County star will hope to come out on top of a gifted field at the Jake Plummer Family Handball Bash and the WPH Race 4 Eight Stop Number 1 this weekend in Idaho.
Some Irish fans may not be aware that Jake Plummer is a former American football quarterback who played with the Arizona Cardinals (1997–2002) and the Denver Broncos (2003–2006) who is now a dedicated handball player and fan.
Household names within the handball fraternity, including Dave Chapman, Naty Alvarado, Sean Lenning, Allan Garner and Luis Moreno, alongside Mayo’s Dessie Keegan and Shanks, will compete in the event.
“I'm now about a 10 minute commute to lower Manhattan and about 35 minutes to the NYAC, where I can play and get many great games with the likes of Mike Schneider, Billy O'Donnell and Tyree Bastidas who all play at the club,” said a buoyant Shanks.
“I'm going to the WPH Plummer Event on Thursday in Idaho and then two weeks later I’m travelling to the US Open in LA. After that, there's the WPH Yes-2-Kids Pro Stop in Tucson, Arizona so I will have plenty of competition until the middle of November.”
A busy schedule may see Shanks, who won the opening 40x20 event in the Irish calendar 12 months ago, return to defend his title at the Golden Gloves in Belfast at the end of the month.
“I'm looking forward to playing in all the tournaments out here and I will get to see a lot of different cities in the States. I might even make it back for the Golden Gloves at the end of October to defend my title.”
Shanks, along with every key player in world handball, will have his key focus on the World Championships, to be held at the Citywest International Convention Arena in October, 2012. With the countdown now just 12 months away, Shanks is already looking forward to the action.
Shanks said: “I’ve been reading about the worlds being held at the Citywest in Dublin. It looks like it is going to be a unique setup and I’m really looking forward to it. Fair play to GAA Handball for setting this fantastic event in place. It will do wonders for the game in Ireland and worldwide.”
Shanks is sure to advance his skills set and experience with more regular competitive action on the USA Handball circuit over the next year and ultimately rise into the higher echelons of the USHA Rankings from his current number nine spot.