Four intriguing quarter-finals are anticipated this weekend as the GAA All-Ireland 40x20 Senior Handball Championships is whittled down to the final four.
One player from the last eight who has caught the eye this term has been former minor champion Brian Carroll.
The Meath star accounted for Tyrone’s Darragh Daly (21-12, 21-4) to set up a last-16 encounter with Wexford’s Gavin Buggy.
Buggy found Carroll’s accurate shooting and error-free approach too hot to handle and bowed out 21-6, 21-8.
“I really wanted to win against Gavin as he has beaten me a few times over the last few years so I was pumped up for that game,” admitted Carroll.
“I just kept the pressure on him from the start and tried to maintain that intensity until the final point.
“I didn’t want to let him get on a roll as he can be very dangerous when he gets going. I was delighted to beat him and was happy with the way I played.”
Carroll has already amassed two senior doubles gongs at just 23 in the big court alongside fellow club ace Tom Sheridan, but now finds himself gunning for a first semi-final singles spot in the smaller code.
Standing between him and the last four is the experienced Ricky McCann from Antrim.
McCann has played the best players in the world, but is expected to struggle to match Carroll for fitness.
“I’m looking forward to playing Ricky,” said McCann.
“I feel that I’m playing well and I hope I can continue playing well this weekend.
“It’s all on the day and I know that if I am going to win I will have to play at my best. Ricky is a great athlete and handballer so it won’t be easy to beat him.”
Paul Brady faces fellow Breffni man Michael Finnegan in the other quarter-final in Kingscourt.
Finnegan did trouble the eight-time All-Ireland champion in last season’s Ulster semi-final, but it’s still difficult to see anything other than a Brady win.
In the west of the country, Mayo’s Joe McCann takes on Clare’s Diarmaid Nash in Moycullen.
McCann has been around the block for a while now but only now seems to be finding his best form.
Nash came to prominence in the top grade after ousting Armagh’s Charlie Shanks in the opening round of the Irish Nationals in 2011, before going down in the final to Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy.
McCarthy has since secured the US Open and on paper seems the most viable threat to Brady.
However, he faces a stern test against the wily Michael Gregan.
McCarthy dominated the last ranking event in January at Ballaghadereen, but Gregan was playing at a very high level at the same tournament before withdrawing due to injury.
A thrilling contest lies in store in Leixlip and even though a Wicklow victory may be on the cards, few would bet against the number two seed from advancing and continuing his hunt for the only senior title which currently eludes him.