Armagh’s Charlie Shanks has been ranked number four in the world after some positive displays across the Atlantic on the USA Handball Circuit in 2012.
Shanks made the move to New York just under a year ago for work commitments and took the opportunity to join the US tour after reaching number two in the Irish game before departing.
Just last weekend the 29-year-old defeated the previous number four seed and world runner-up in 2009, Texan Alan Garner, in two straight games to advance to the semi-final of the Seattle event at the Washington Athletic Club.
Shanks then fell to the hands of the newly-crowned world number one, Tucson’s Luis Moreno, who promises to be one of the leading challengers to Cavan’s Paul Brady’s world senior title tilt in Ireland this October.
In the third/fourth place play-off, the twice Irish Senior Championship finalist (2009 and 2010) lost out to veteran California’s Naty Alvarado.
“I had a good win over Garner in the last eight. I played well against him and managed to keep him out of the game by serving well and killing balls mostly on my first attempt,” said Shanks.
Only two Irish men, Cork’s Tony Healy and Cavan’s Paul Brady, have ever reached a higher ranking position on the USA series since its induction.
“I think I deserve to be at number four with the way I've been playing as I’ve had good results but I haven’t been consistent enough I feel. If I'm to push up the rankings any further, I need to be consistently playing well at each stop,” stated the Lurgan clubman.
The final tournament of the 40x20 season is the 2012 USHA Nationals which will swing into action at the Los Caballeros Sports Village in Fountain Valley, California next month.
Shanks will certainly be one of the pre-tournament favourites after his exploits over the past 10 months.
He said: “The USHA Nationals should be interesting again. It's the season’s finale so some players will be burnt out and others will be going out with a bang. I hope to be fresh and ready to challenge for the title.”
Brady in for Citywest tournament
Meanwhile, Cavan's Paul Brady, the winner of the last three world championships, has been officially invited to join Team Ireland for the hugely anticipated sell out event in October in The Citywest Arena, Dublin.
Brady missed out on the Irish Nationals, the quailing event for the team, but his All Ireland senior win and the fact he is bidding for four-in-a-row in world titles saw him officially invited on the team by GAA Handball Ireland.
He will return to action in Montreal this weekend for the Canadian Nationals.
Back on home soil the hardball series will draw to a close with the GAA Hardball senior doubles final down for decision at Mullingar.
Mayo’s Vinny Moran and Campbell Brennan have been two of the more established hardball players in the country in recent times but they will be underdogs when they clash with Limerick’s Seamus O’Carroll and CJ Fitzpatrick.
The Cappagh club pair are hoping for third time lucky as they will make their third senior final appearance in the hardball in as many years.
O’Carroll was recently crowned in the singles bracket when he toppled Meath’s Tom Sheridan and few would bet against the Limerick dual football and handball star from capturing the double this Saturday.
“I'm hoping that I can make it a hardball double by winning the singles and doubles but we know we will have our work cut out this weekend in the final. After being in the last two doubles finals, I hope lady luck is on our side this year and hopefully make it third time lucky,” said O’Carroll.
The Treaty County are also in action in the minor doubles final where Padraig Quish and Evan Murphy face a stern test in Wexford’s Galen Riordain and Padraig Foley.
The Limerick teens enjoyed a fine two game victory over Cork’s Michael Hedigan and Daniel Relihan 21-20, 21-12 to progress to the final and, like his fellow County colleague O’Carroll, Quish is chasing the double in the minor grade.