Martin Mulkerrins in frame for Irish Collegiate handball honours
THERE will be many empty desks in universities and colleges around Ireland today as dozens of students have packed away their books and notes to concentrate on the Irish Collegiate Championships, that are being played in a variety of border counties.
The courts at Munsterconnaught, Kells, Corduff, St Patrick's Cavan, Tydavnet, Monaghan Harps and Kingscourt will all be a hive of activity, today and tomorrow, with male and female competitors battling for places in the finals, that will be hosted at Kingscourt on Sunday.
The College Championships are battled out with the same fierce competition as the football, hurling and camogie tournaments, as the students regard these tournaments as a step on the rung to higher honours.
UCD's Martin Mulkerrins returns to the scene with the intention of achieving an impressive four in a row. The Galwegian has also made his mark on the US Collegiate campaign and must be considered favourite to retain his Irish title.
His fellow clubmates, Terry McElvaney, from Monaghan, and Galen Riordan from Wexford, will provide stout opposition to Mulkerrins as they go in search of their their first senior title, while keeping the top prize in the South Dublin university.
Mulkerrins and Riordan won the US Collegiate Doubles Championship last season, which eased Mulkerrin's pain of losing his singles title to Daniel Cordova.
University of Limerick, seem to grow stronger by the year, and this time is represented by Colin Crehan, Daniel Relihan, and Michael Hedigan, all of whom are more than capable of causing an upset. IT Tralee's Shane Hedigan will undoubtedly have his say on proceedings, too, before the tournament is over.
The ladies' crown is vacant just now as Cork star Catriona Casey has ended her college days and is no longer eligible to compete, after a long run of Collegiate success on both sides of the Atlantic.
Ready to step onto Casey's throne are a number of contenders and they include Galway's Ciana Nì Churraoin (UL), Cork's Aishling O’Keeffe (DCU), and Kilkenny's Ciara Mahon (TCD). Ní Churraoin, who collected the Connaught Ladies' title last weekend, after getting a walkover from injured Lauren O'Riordan in the final, must be firm favourite to take over from Casey.
However, there are others like Munster and Leinster Provincial runners-up, O'Keefe and Mahon who could make things extremely difficult