The big guns enter the fray this Saturday in the MyClubShop.ie All-Ireland Men’s Senior Softball Championship Round of 16 ties.
A stand out encounter is Michael Gregan (Wicklow) taking on #2 seed Martin Mulkerrins (Galway) in Thurles. Mulkerrins’ win in last years Softball Nationals Final made big court enthusiasts sit up and take note of a possible new challenger in the making for Championship.
Mulkerrins will know not to underestimate Gregan though, a vastly experienced players, and one of the most competitive players you could share a court with. A number of injury setbacks in recent years has knocked Gregan back several strides and out of the public eye to a certain extent. But he tells GAAHandball.ie that he is back and feeling strong again.
“Last year I had a football injury that kept me out of the Nationals & Championship, which upset me as I love the big alley so I am delighted to be in thick of the action this year.”
Gregan’s best showing in the Softball Championship is from a number of years back, and shows some decent scalps. Having defeated Colm Jordan, a young Robbie McCarthy, and the former champion Tom Sheridan, Gregan humorously quotes he “got a lesson from Duxie Walsh in the SF in Garryhill that he will never forget.”
“Duxie was my training partner and my good friend. I miss him and still can’t believe he’s not with us anymore!”
“Covid-19 has been cruel to Clubs, to everyone that likes to train hard or travel to watch games, and especially for Handball itself. I have been lucky that I have been playing football over the summer so my fitness is also up to scratch. As for Handball training, I have never been as busy, getting plenty of games against the links of Gavin Buggy, Tommy Hynes, Barry Goff & Ger Coonan.”
Now a family man, Coolboy’s Gregan has a new sense of perspective and different responsibilities than he is used to having come Championship, but he is confident he has the balance right and is still as excited as ever to compete.
“I’m very lucky to have a girlfriend that understands the standard of training that needs to be done to play at this level. We have a one-year old son now that means everything to us and we both work, so I’m grateful to her to let me do my thing and keep pushing at the top end of the sport.”
“I’m expecting nothing more than a very tough match against Martin (Mulkerrins) on Saturday. He is extremely strong and fit, and is one of the best Handballers in the world at the minute. We haven’t played in the big court yet, but with Eoin out of the running now this year, there is a great opening for someone new to make their mark and get to the final. Robbie (McCarthy) is clearly hot favourite and rightly so, but you just never know in Finals, as showed by last years shock.”