All roads lead to Loughmacrory in Co Tyrone this weekend for the Lough One Wall Showdown, one of the biggest club-run handball tournaments in the world.
This weekend’s event has attracted a whopping 330-strong field, with elite players lining up alongside juveniles, Masters, B and C players and beginners/recreational handballers for what should be a weekend extravaganza at the scenic lake-side location. Actions serves off tomorrow (Friday) and runs till Sunday.
Tournament Director Chris Curran feels the “festival-style” buzz around the weekend tournament is what sets it apart.
“We are delighted to see such a huge range of players compete in our annual flagship event in Loughmacrory GAA Handball Club. The showdown has always attracted huge crowds and real quality too with Open title winners including Conor McElduff, Wally Amaro, Catriona Casey, Martina McMahon and Lorraine Havern. McElduff and England's Luke Thompson served up a thriller in the 2022 Men's Open Final with (due to the games played on rally scoring) the title being decided on the last rally of the Tournament, which Conor won 25-24.
"Both are back competing for the title again as are last year's Ladies Open champion, Eilise McCrory and former champ, Lorraine McNally,” he said.
“Ultimately it is the positive festival style buzz which we all love around the Lough Showdown weekend and our unique one wall arena adds to the atmosphere as it is open air but covered at the same time and we do see well over 1,000 spectators come and go over the course of the weekend.”
Matches will be played at the main tournament centre at the host club Loughmacrory and also at Killyclogher.
Among the star attractions this year are most of the top Irish players including Irish champion Conor McElduff, the outstanding left-handed English number one Luke Thompson and the brilliant Basque Lur Ziarrusto Intxaurtza.
“I can't wait for the Lough showdown coming up this weekend," enthused Conor, "as it's become the second biggest Irish tournament of the year behind the Nationals and it always attracts players from overseas too.
“We have two of the top European players coming over to compete this year which will leave the Men’s Open very competitive," he pointed out.
“I'm really looking forward to it as last year turned out to be the best final anyone could have hoped for (his 25-24 win over Thompson) so I hope it brings the same entertainment and of course I will try my best to capture my fifth lough showdown title!”
“It meant a lot to me winning a sixth open title at the Irish nationals last week,” he reflected.
“It was a dream to just win a county title back in the day but to have the all-time record now for the most open One Wall titles in Ireland is something I can’t quite believe.
“It's something I'm very proud of and it also feels great to finally collect a major title this year.
“Back playing in the 40x20 Senior Championship earlier in the year was a tougher transition than I had thought, I reached the All-Ireland senior semi-final but will be expecting to go even further next year!
“For now I’ll be just playing one-wall until November. After the Lough showdown I'll be heading to the Belgium Open on the 4th of November and then it's straight back into the 40x20 for the Golden Gloves a few weeks afterwards," he concluded.
Further details, draws and schedules are here.