This coming weekend will see Breaffy House Sports Arena descend into a handball hotbed as 400 competitors from all over the country take part in the GAA Handball Wallball Nationals.
Kicking off at 12 noon on Friday, players as young as eight-years-of-age, and as old as 70 years, will take to the courts, doing battle in this fast paced game. That is what makes this particular weekend so unique as a sporting spectacle for GAA Handball, the fact that players of all ages, gender and ability compete under the one roof from morning to night, making it a fantastic social and family weekend.
The elite mens and ladies grades of course are the premier events, with the showpiece finals set for 8pm Saturday night. From a Mayo perspective, Pauline Gallagher leads the ladies charge, and faces a tough quarter-final against Galway's Ciana Ni Churraoin. But the Swinford woman has plenty of experience under her belt and certainly has the game to trouble the number three seed Ni Churraoin.
In the men's open grade, Claremorris youngster Patrick Murphy (Claremorris ) has shown plenty of potential in recent years, and will make his Elite level debut this weekend. He too faces a tough opener against 19-and-under world champion James Prentice of Tipperary. It is Galway man Martin Mulkerrins who is the man to beat however, with the number one seed having reached three of the last four finals, winning one.
Other notable Mayo competitors include Claire Reynolds (Belcarra ) and Cuileann Bourke (Belcarra ) in the girls 17-and-under, whilst there are a large number of county men and women also competing in the over-age masters events.
Entry is free all weekend as GAA Handball work to promote the sport to the wider public. A live Facebook stream will also be provided on Friday (evening ) and Saturday via the GAA Handball Facebook page, broadcasting the elite mens and ladies quarter-finals, semi-finals and Finals to the masses.
The sport of Wallball (or more commonly known as one-wall Handball ), has exploded in popularity in Schools and GAA Clubs around Ireland in recent years. St Gerald's College, Castlebar is one such school which has built two purpose built indoor Handball Walls, and the school will also play host to some adult grades this Saturday and Sunday.
So pop in, get inspired, and who knows, you may even take part in the Beginners grade in 2020! See www.gaahandball.ie for further details.