We are getting to the business end of the 2017 MyClubShop.ie All-Ireland 60x30 Championships, with six QF matches in the Mens & Ladies grades down for decision on Saturday in three double headers.
Arguably the most competitive programme of matches is set for Thurles, where first up is Joe McCann (Mayo) v Brian Carroll (Meath). Brian's #4 ranking in Ireland in the big alley sees him go in as many peoples favourite, but McCann's #13 ranking may portray an unrealistic picture of the Ballaghaderreen mans game. Last weekend he was an impressive 21-14, 21-4 winner over Kerry's Dominic Lynch, but even at that, the six time Doubles Finalist will have to up his game further to prevent Carroll returning to the SF stages. Carroll himself is showing decent form, narrowly missing out on a Final spot at the 60x30 Nationals a fortnight ago in an 11-9 tiebreak loss to Gavin Buggy. He followed that up with a 21-11, 21-8 Championship Last 16 win over Kilkenny's Ciaran Neary last Saturday.
The second match on the programme should be another enticing affair as Wexford's Gavin Buggy takes on Meath's Gary McConnell. Buggy appears to be getting better with age, and more than capable of holding off the challenge of all the young guns in the big court. A Finalist at the 60x30 Nationals, which required him ousting Martin Mulkerrins, CJ Fitzpatrick & Brian Carroll on route. The #3 national ranked Buggy also followed that up with a gripping 21-5, 17-21, 21-13 Last 16 win over Mulkerrins on Saturday past.
McConnell himself has shown great promise in the current 60x30 season, and is a very exciting player to watch as he mixes his power play with exquisite soft touches around the front court. The 2014 Intermediate Champion took out Joe McCann before losing out 11-10 in the tiebreak to club mate Brian Carroll in the match of the tournament at the 60x30 Nationals. Last weekend he carried his fine form into the Championship, coming from behind to take out Limerick's CJ Fitzpatrick 13-21, 21-6, 21-16.
In Hospital HC, Limerick's reigning Champion Martina McMahon will start as strong favourite over Westmeath's Aoife McCarthy as she starts her bid to retain her crown. She will be eager to get back on winning ways having failed to capitalise on a 9-4 tiebreak lead over Catriona Casey in the 60x30 Nationals Final a fortnight ago. Following that encounter will see the reigning Mens Champion Robbie McCarthy take on Tipperary's Ger Coonan. McCarthy is the hot favourite to claim his 6th All-Ireland in September and can make the game look effortless so Coonan will be up against it on Saturday. The Ballina clubman defeated David Hope in two straight games in his Last 16 outing last week.
Lahorna HC in Tipperary plays host to a Ladies double header, with Niamh Dunne (Laois) taking on Aishling O'Keeffe (Cork) in the first match. This could go either way, with the relatively inexperienced at this level Dunne having showed in recent months that she is more than capable of progressing up the senior ranks. In O'Keeffe she faces a multiple All-Ireland Doubles winner. Following this match is recently crowned Leinster champion Ciara Mahon (Kilkenny) v Pauline Gallagher (Mayo). National #3 Mahon starts as favourite but the big hitting Gallagher is a former Doubles winner and will be more than confident in her own game in seeing off Mahon's challenge and advancing to a SF.
The prize for this weekends victors will be a slot on next Saturday's quadruple bill of Men's & Ladies SF's at Croke Park.
Fixtures: Saturday 12th August
Thurles, Tipperary OIC Joe O’Halloran (086 243 9746) @ 2:00pm
- Mens QF 2: Mayo (Joe McCann) v Meath (Brian Carroll)
- Mens QF 3: Wexford (Gavin Buggy) v Meath (Gary McConnell)
Hospital, Limerick OIC John Penny (087 911 5411) @ 2:00pm
- Ladies QF 3: Limerick (Martina McMahon) v Westmeath (Aoife McCarthy)
- Mens QF 4: Westmeath (Robbie McCarthy) v Tipperary (Ger Coonan)
Lahorna, Tipperary OIC John O’Neill (087 630 8440) @ 3:00pm
- Ladies QF 1: Laois (Niamh Dunne) v Cork (Aishling O’Keefe)
- Ladies QF 2: Kilkenny (Ciara Mahon) v Mayo (Pauline Gallagher)