Armagh’s Charlie Shanks is just one of a group of players from Ireland who will compete for the last major USA prize of 2011 in the 40x20 game this weekend as he travels to California for the Simple Green US Open of handball.
Shanks, alongside Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy, will lead the Irish charge in the singles bracket against the elite professionals from the USA, Mexico and Canada at the Los Caballeros Sports Village in Fountain Valley.
Cavan’s Paul Brady, who continues his recovery from a severe finger injury picked up at the end of last season will combine with regular partner, Michael Finnegan, for the doubles crown.
Mayo’s Dessie Keegan and Limerick’s Seamus O’Carroll will also be in contention for the doubles honours.
2011 Irish Nationals champion, McCarthy will be back in competitive action for the first time since his M Donnelly GAA Handball 60x30 win over Dublin’s Eoin Kennedy last month.
McCarthy and New York based Shanks will be feared by many of the best players from across the Atlantic.
Two weeks ago, 28-year-old Shanks came within a point of ousting USA number two Naty Alvarado in the quarter-finals of the first stop on the US Tour, losing out 11-10 in the tiebreak in Idaho.
That will have provided the Ulster man with a terrific confidence boost as he bids to become just the third player from the Emerald Isle to collect a win on the US pro circuit.
Cork’s Tony Healy and Breffni man Brady are the only two men to achieve such status to date.
“I was a bit disappointed I lost 11-10 in the quarters in Idaho but I’m trying to take as many positives from that defeat as I can.
"There are a few things I can take from that experience and learn from it,” said Shanks.
“The US Open will be a big event as always and all the top players will be there. As far as I’m concerned, there are six or seven players that could win it and it is really wide open.
"I've just about got over the aches and pains from Idaho and now I'm back on the road again for Los Angeles. Last year I finished sixth overall so I'll be hoping to do better again this year.”
Mullahoran star Brady, who claimed a record breaking seventh straight 40x20 championship win back in Ireland last May, is regarded as the number one player in the world.
But Brady has slipped down in the US rankings due to his absence from the major events since his injury. He had to withdraw from the US Nationals back in June, where he would have been pursuing a seventh successive victory in Minnesota.
As he continues that ultimate objective of getting back to full fitness in order to defend his world crown in Dublin next October,
Brady commented: “The US Open is still part of my recovery, hence the reason I’ve decided to play doubles. I decided to forget about the remainder of the season back in May after the injury.
"Right now, it’s all about giving the injury as much time as possible to get fully healed and more importantly to be ready for next year.
"I also want to take these few months to continue to compete at a less intense level and to re-charge the batteries and be fresh and ready for next year.”
Action gets under way this Thursday in the singles division and can be viewed as a live internet stream with full details available on www.gaahandball.ie.