With the Senior Singles reaching their thrilling crescendos last week, the focus now switches to the doubles with five Senior Men’s Doubles ties down for decision this weekend.
Defending champions, Claremen Diarmaid Nash and Colin Crehan, will wait another week before entering the fray in the quarter-finals.
The extra week for Nash to overcome his singles final disappointment will likely serve the Banner duo well as they seek to create a legacy to match that of the Kirby brothers who won five successive 40x20 Senior Doubles titles back in the 1970s.
The weekend action kicks off with a double-header in Dungarvan. First on the bill is an all-veteran affair as Cork’s Tony Healy and Brendan Fleming take on Michael Gregan and Johnny Willoughby of Wicklow.
Healy – twice a doubles title winner in ’99 and ’01 – partners long-time Ballydesmond clubmate Fleming for the third successive year; they were beaten semi-finalists in 2017.
Coolboy clubmen Gregan and Willoughby have been regular partners for the best part of 15 years and know each other’s games inside out. The Rebels are favoured however, and could take bigger scalps along the way.
Next on the programme at Dungarvan sees Cork in action again as Daniel Relihan and Michael Hedigan battle the Wexford duo of Gavin Buggy and Galen Riordan. Playing into number two seeds Eoin Kennedy and Carl Browne [Dublin] this is a tough match to call.
The blend of youth and experience that Buggy and Riordan bring to the table may be enough to tilt the balance in the Model county’s favour however, but they will have to earn their place as Riordan and Hedigan won’t go down without a serious fight.
Cappagh plays host to Kerry’s Dominic Lynch and Jack O’Shea versus Ollie and Pat Conway of Galway. Fresh off victory in the Masters singles last weekend, Lynch’s confidence will be high and O’Shea and he have become well accustomed over the years.
The Conway brothers have been doubles partners for the best part of two decades and have proven themselves tough opposition at every level. In this contest, Lynch is the trump card and the Kingdom should progress to the quarter-finals.
St. Brigid’s, Curraghboy is the venue for former champions Tom Sheridan and Brian Carroll of Meath against Mayo’s Vinny Moran and Ian McLoughlin. Having won the softball doubles with Gary McConnell, Sheridan and Carroll have teamed up once again for an assault on the “small alley” doubles.
At 51, the only question is whether Sheridan still possesses the agility for the quick turning game that is 40x20. That he will still have the fire is not in question, and they should have enough to see off the Mayo pairing, but it is in later rounds, and a potential semi-final against the defending champions where Sheridan and Carroll’s mettle will be really tested.