The late, great Ducksy Walsh: His memory will loom large at National handball series
There will surely be a cloud hanging over the Nationals 60x30 Championships this weekend as 12 months ago the late, great Ducksy Walsh won his 38th All-Ireland senior title, bringing his haul of medals well into hundreds double figures.
In the Men's final, Ducksy defeated Eoin Kennedy and less than a month later the Kilkenny doyen died unexpectedly after a brief illness.
His memory, however, lives on and when players and spectators gather at Castlebridge and New Ross this weekend the deeds of Ducksy will, surely, be recalled.
Kennedy, a demon on the big alley, returns to try and win back the title he lost last year and, of course, the sad absence of Walsh will make the task a little easier but, still, there is a host of top players quite capable of preventing Dubliner Kennedy in his quest.
He is seeded number one in the ranking event and will clash tomorrow with either Tommy Hynes (Wexford) or Oliver Conway (Galway), who play a preliminary round game first.
There is another preliminary round game to be sorted out, as well. It will feature Michael Gregan (Wicklow) and Martin Mulkerrins (Galway) with former Wexford hurler Gavin Buggy waiting in the wings for the outcome.
The 60x30 game is more open than the smaller court action but few Ulster players compete as there is a lack of the big courts in the province. At least that is an excuse put forward for northern province players giving the grade a bye, mostly.
Among those standing in Kennedy's way of progressing are Paudi Quish (Limerick), Stephen Coonan (Tipperary) and Mulkerrins.
The present season is certainly promising to be one to remember for Catriona Casey. So far in 2017, the Cork girl has won the US Players' Championship in Salt Lake City, the Burt Kossoff Invitational ProStop No.6 tournament in New York, the O'Neill's Irish 40x20 Championship at Kingscourt, the US 4Wall Nationals in California, the O'Neill's All-Ireland 40x20 and Adult Championships plus the All-Ireland Wall-Ball Championship, at Roscommon last weekend.
In five of those victories Casey defeated Limerick's Martina McMahon but the loser did get one over on her Munster rival by winning the She's Ace final, at Aughagower last January. That's the only defeat for the Cork player this year, so far.
It is a fair bet that Casey, defending the title, and McMahon will clash in the final of the Irish 60x30 Nationals, again, this weekend. All ladies' games up to the final will be played at New Ross but the decider will go ahead at Castlebridge, along with the men's semi-finals and final on Sunday.
All grades, apart from the men's and ladies' opens, are doubles events asnd involved from Ulster will be Cailíosa Ní Dhíuill (Armagh) and Mairead Fox (Tyrone) at Girls'15&U, with Clóda Nic Con Midhe and Dearbhail Fox (Tyrone) teaming up in the Girls'13&U competition.
Irish 60x30 Nationals
Men's Open at Castlebridge
Saturday – Last 16: Eoin Kennedy (Dublin) v T Hynes (Wexford) or O Conway (Galway); J Brady (Cavan) v P Quish (Limerick); S Coonan (Tipperary) v J McCann (Mayo); D Hope (Offaly) v D Lynch (Kerry); B Carroll (Meath) v B Minogue (Kilkenny); CJ Fitzpatrick (Limerick) v G McConnell (Meath); C Browne (Dublin) v C Neary (Kilkenny); M Gregan (Wicklow) or M Mulkerrins (Galway) v G Buggy (Wexford).
Quarter-finals to follow.
Sunday – Semi-finals and final:
Women's Open at New Ross
Saturday – Quarter-finals: C Casey (Cork) v M Ní Dhálaigh (Dublin); N Dunne (Laois) v A O'Keefe (Cork); C Mahon (Kilkenny) v F Tully (Roscommon); A Holohan (Kilkenny) v M McMahon (Limerick).
Semi-finals to follow.
Sunday – Final at Castlebridge.