The highlight of the 60x30 softball tournament calendar arrives this weekend with the first ‘Major’ of the summer handball season.
The Irish Softball Nationals is the most prestigious event in the ‘big alley’ calendar outside of the All-Ireland Championships. The competition has been hosted by Wexford in recent years but this year, it will be staged in north Leinster venues.
Mullingar Handball Club is the central venue for the weekend and will host the blue riband Men’s and Ladies Open Singles grades. Local favourite Robbie McCarthy, the reigning All-Ireland senior champion in both 40x20 and 60x30 codes, heads the field in the Men’s Open Singles and starts as hot favourite to add yet another title to his glittering CV.
The 16-man field includes a good mix of the top softball players in the country, with Wexford’s Gavin Buggy, winner of the Senior Doubles last year in tandem with Galen Riordan, also in the draw along with the highly-decorated Brian Carroll of Meath, a regular sparring partner of McCarthy’s over the years and, indeed, a former doubles partner.
Carroll’s Kells clubmate Gary McConnell, who lost out in the Senior Singles final to McCarthy last year, will be expected to also provide stern opposition.
Kilkenny lefty Ciaran Neary, Offaly citeog David Hope, Tipperary’s Ger Coonan, the very experienced Michael Gregan of Wicklow, Galway’s Diarmuid Mulkerrins, last year’s Intermediate winner Chris Doyle and two former Minor All-Ireland champions in young guns Cormac Finn and Kyle Jordan are in the mix, too, in what is a strong field.
The Ladies Open has attracted a field of six. With the likes of Catriona Casey, 40x20 champion Ciana Ni Churraoin, Martina McMahon and Fiona Tully not entered, the way is clear for a new champion to emerge and a very competitive division is expected.
Aoife McCarthy is the local hope in the Ladies Open grade, where Cuileann Bourke (Mayo), Meaadhbh Ní Dálaigh (Dublin), Leah Minogue (Clare), Laura Finn (Sligo) and Amy Brennan (Kilkenny) complete the line-up.
The Men’s A Doubles will be hosted by the Na Fianna club in Dublin with Crossakiel, Co Meath staging the Men’s B Doubles and Fahy’s Cross in north Offaly the hub for the Men’s C Doubles.
Kells, Abbeylara and Crinkle in Offaly are also being utilised for underage grades.
View the draws and schedules here 60 x 30 Softball Nationals Entries and draws for Distribution (2).xlsx