Kerry’s Maria Daly and Cavan’s Paul Brady will both lay their respective GAA Handball titles on the line in the coming weeks as the duo get ready to battle against Ireland’s elite players.
Ballymacelligott star Daly captured both the 60x30 and 40x20 crowns in 2011, while Mullaghoran’s Brady is endeavouring to secure an unequalled eighth consecutive men’s honour.
Both senior brackets look certain to be hotly contested with the women’s game looking particularly competitive with genuine contenders coming from right across the country.
Possibly the greatest female player to have graced the 40x20 court, three-time world champion Fiona Shannon from Antrim is many people’s favourite as is her fellow St Paul’s club star, Aisling Reilly.
The men’s field has been dominated by one man, Paul Brady, for the past decade, with the Cavan native scooping a spectacular eight wins in his last nine attempts.
He remains the only former winner left in the series.
Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy looks to be only one player who can end Brady’s rock-solid grip on the cup.
The eight-time champion will meet the winner of Kilkenny’s Peter Funchion and Wexford’s Peter Hughes this weekend in the round of 32.
Others to look out for in the draw are recently crowned Munster and intervarsity champion Seamus O’Carroll from Limerick and Cork’s rising young star and current USA 19-and-under holder, Killian Carroll.
Both the ladies and men’s divisions will be whittled down to the last eight after the weekend’s encounters as the round one winners will challenge for quarter-final slots on Sunday.
Saturday 18 February first round fixtures
3pm: Michael Gregan (Wicklow) v Patrick Clerkin (Cavan)
4pm: Paul Brady (Cavan) v Peter Funchion (Kilkenny)
2pm: Johnny Willoughby (Wicklow) v Brendan Fleming (Cork)
3pm: Seamus O’Carroll (Limerick) v Ger Coonan (Tipperary)
4pm: Nicholas Anthony (Kilkenny) v Dominick Lynch (Kerry)
2pm: Leona Doolin (Roscommon) v Aisling O’Keefe (Cork)
3pm: Killian Carroll (Cork) v Vinnie Moran (Mayo)
St. Coman's, Roscommon:
1pm: Amy Corrigan (Mayo) v Hilary Rushe (Roscommon)
2pm: Niall Malone (Clare) v Michael Finnegan (Cavan)
3pm: Diarmaid Nash (Clare) v Chris Doolin (Roscommon)
4pm: Joe McCann (Mayo) v Shane O’Neill (Tyrone)
Ballymore Eustace, Kildare:
3pm: Gavin Buggy (Wexford) v Ian Griffin (Dublin)
4pm: Robbie McCarthy (Westmeath) v David Hope (Offaly) or Patrick Funchion (Kilkenny)
2pm: CJ Fitzpatrick (Limerick) v Dessie Keegan (Mayo)
3pm: Stephen Cooney (Mayo) v Colm Jordan (Cork)
4pm: Tom Sheridan (Meath) v Fergal Collins (Tipperary)
3pm: Darragh Daly (Tyrone) v Brian Carroll (Meath) St. Mellan’s, Truagh
4pm: Rikki O’Gara (Roscommon) v Ricky McCann (Antrim)
3pm: Shauna Hilley (Wicklow) v Mary Phelan (Kilkenny)
4pm: Patricia Doyle (Wicklow) v Ciara Mahon (Kilkenny)