Golden opportunity for visitors to get their mitts on Gloves
A TOTAL of 108 players will battle it out on seven courts from Friday through to Sunday during the prestigious Golden Gloves ranking tournament in Belfast, with the culmination of the event taking place at St Paul's, where the Open semi-finals and finals will be slogged out.
“We are delighted to have the finals back at St Paul's, now that the courts there have been completely refurbished. The handball area at the club has had a complete makeover. Last year, the finals were staged at Gort na Móna and that club deserves a very big thank you for the manner in which they dealt with everything,” says tournament coordinator Séamus Ó Tuama.
“This is one of the biggest entries we have had for many years and we are particularly pleased with the number of entries in the boys' and girls' junior competitions. This bodes well for the future of handball in these parts. Once the young players sample what is on offer in the Golden Gloves they will return in future years as adult players.”
Hitting off the 2015 action will be David Moloney from Tipperary and Tyrone's Barry Devlin, in the Men's Open preliminary round at 7pm on Friday at St Paul's.
“It is tough on David having to travel from Tipperary and play in the evening but we had to abide by the Croke Park Handball Rankings and that's the way the draw panned out,” explains Ó Tauma.
Among the top clashes on Saturday morning will be the meeting of Ger Coonan (Tipperary) and Rikki O'Gara (Roscommon), with the winner to face Number One seed Charly Shanks, from Lurgan, in the evening quarter-finals.
Following that will be Darragh Daly (Tyrone) against Tadge Carroll (Cork), brother of last year's winner Killian Carroll who doesn't defend the title as he is playing in a US ProStop event in Arizona this weekend.
Wicklow's Michael Cregan is a player who has been knocking on the door of Golden Gloves success, in the past, and he tries again with an opener against Noresider Peter Funchion.
There are a number of young players in the draw who could cause a few surprises, among them UGAAWA Young Achiever 2014 winner Johnny Woods, from Beragh, and Darren Doherty, the reigning All-Ireland Minor champion from Emyvale. The battle between Woods and Niall Malone (Kildare) could be very interesting.
Similarly, the clash of Doherty and Clare's Colin Crehan should be worth watching as they battle for a place in the evening quarter-finals against the mighty Martin Mulkerrins of Galway, the Number Two seed.
The final is timed for 4.30 pm on Sunday but, of course, that depends on all games running to schedule. If the two semi-finals were to go to a rubber game shootout that could delay the final.
Hot favourite to retain the Ladies' Open crown is world and US Open champion Aisling Reilly who could get a test against Maeve McElduff tomorrow. Mourne One-Wall ace Lorraine Havern is also in the Gloves 40x20 draw.
There should be plenty of top action over seven courts at St Paul's, Gort na Mona, Colaiste Beal Feirsde and Rossa.