/ GAA

Weekend handball preview

Updated: Thursday, 01 Mar 2012 18:51

Cavan's Paul Brady
Cavan's Paul Brady

Another comprehensive series of GAA Handball O'Neills All-Ireland Championship action is set to unfold this weekend as the various provincial champions take centre stage in their respective categories.

A total of sixteen venues will host key games in the race for All-Ireland 40x20 gold, and in particular the men's and ladies open grades will have top-quality ties on view on Saturday and Sunday.

The cream of the ladies' code will be vying for semi-final places throughout Saturday in what has been deemed the most competitive ladies' championship ever staged.

Reigning champion Maria Daly (Kerry) is bidding for a three-in-a-row in the blue ribband event and will come face-to-face with highly experience Kildare star Anna Spence, who recently captured the Leinster crown in impressive fashion.

Daly enters the proceedings on the back of an impressive run of form which also netted her the Ladies All-Star Handballer of the Year in 2011 and her silky skills will make her difficult to deny in that challenge again.

US Open champion Fiona Shannon is also returning to her best form in the World Championship season and recently enjoyed a narrow Ulster final win over fellow Antrim colleague Aisling Reilly.

Both players come next in the rankings and in Marianna Rushe (Roscommon), newly crowned US Collegiates champion Catriona Casey (Cork), Ashley Prendiville (Kerry), and rising Down star Lorraine Havern, this weekend's matches will attract huge interest.

In the Men's Open Doubles Championships, all eyes will be on reigning champions Paul Brady and Michael Finnegan (Cavan), who are chasing a seventh win, but there are again a host of major contenders in the race for the 2012 title.

Dessie Keegan and Joe McCann (Mayo), winners in 2009, have an interesting test against Wexford while last year's finalists Brian Carroll and Tom Sheridan (Meath) take on the 2011 intermediate champions Diarmaid Nash and Niall Malone (Clare).

Elsewhere this weekend there are some other intriguing ties on offer with Martin Mulkerrins (Galway), fresh from his US Open Collegiates title win, facing Tyrone' Caolan Daly. The winners of the All-Ireland minor titles, in 2010 and 2009 respectively, will provide an absorbing contest in Moycullen in the Intermediate Singles Championship.

Ger Coonan (Tipperary) came through a very tough Munster campaign in the same series and takes on 2008 minor champion Gary McConnell (Meath) in Nenagh.

At minor level, Leitrim's Donal Wrynn will be eager to make a massive breakthrough for the county when he takes on former Under-16 All-Ireland champion Darren Doherty (Monaghan) in the All-Ireland semi-final at Ballaghadereen, while Cork's Patrick Herlihy and Wexford's Galen Riordain will clash in the other semi-final for the right to be part of the major televised All-Ireland senior final programme in Roscommon on 24 March.

Powered by NewsWhip