Handball championship starts this weekend
Updated: Wednesday, 20 Feb 2013 12:12
A first ever Live Open Championship draw went ahead in Croke Park this week as the 2013 O'Neill's GAA Handball All Ireland 40x20 Open Championship line-up was decided.
Following the record-breaking World Championships in Dublin last October, there has been tremendous interest generated around the upcoming four-wall series of games.
Four-time world champion, Cavan's Paul Brady, will be chasing another record this term as he bids for nine-in-a-row, and ten All Ireland senior singles titles in all.
The Mullahoran clubman begins the defence of the Gael Linn Cup with an opening round tie against Cork's Brendan Fleming in Leixlip, Kildare, this Saturday. Meath's Brian Carroll will face Tipperary's Ger Coonan to open that programme at 3pm.
There will be a triple bill in Kingscourt on Saturday, starting at 1pm, as Wicklow's Michael Gregan takes on Antrim's Owen McKenna. Robbie McCarthy (Westmeath) faces up to Wicklow's Johnny Willoughby and Mayo's Joe McCann clashes with Antrim's Ricky McCann.
At Roscommon on Sunday, Cavan's Michael Finnegan is up against one of the rising stars of the game and recently crowned Connacht champion, Galway's Martin Mulkerrins, while Clare's Diarmaid Nash will face Mayo's Stephen Cooney on the same programme.
The last remaining clash of the round will see two world champions go head to head as World 19 & Under winner, Cork's Killian Carroll, faces 35+ world champion, Kerry's Dominick Lynch in Cappagh, Limerick.
Following a season when he reached a world senior semi final and the John Gaffney ranking tournament decider, Cavan's Michael Finnegan is ready for a tough championship test.
Finnegan said: "Martin Mulkerrins is one of the rising stars of the game and was possibly the player none of the seeded side wanted to meet. I've drawn him so it's now time to get ready for a tough opening game.
“But the new live open draw has generated a lot of excitement and there was a great buzz about this and I think it is another very positive step for the game."
Nash is hopeful of a big challenge and delighted with the new system. He will be eager to move on now having won a World 23 & Under title and reached a Nationals Open final.
The Tuamgraney clubman said: "The new format is great and all the players are excited to see the interest it has generated.
“There are no easy draws and I have a tough opener with Stephen Cooney, so I will have to be ready for that, but it is an exciting championship with sixteen players all with high hopes of doing well.”
The action in the All Ireland series will now kick into full swing this weekend leading to the All Ireland senior decider on Saturday 16 March.
The Tour America Ladies’ Open Championships were also drawn and get underway on Saturday 2 March with the big tie of the round undoubtedly between Antrim's Aisling Reilly and Cork's Catriona Casey in the last eight stage.