COLIN CREHAN and Diarmaid Nash are viewed as Clare’s greatest chance of success as the Irish Nationals take place in the county.
In what is viewed as the biggest handball event to take place in Clare since the World Championships in 1989, some 150 male and female handballers from across Ireland, including a number of Clare’s finest, will descend on nine venues as the county hosts the Irish Nationals.
Nine host clubs have been building up to the Nationals for weeks, with significant investment and volunteer time dedicated to getting the venues right for the event, the second most important competition of the year after the All-Irelands, which will be held in March.
Broadford, Clarecastle, Clooney/Quin, Kilkishen, Newmarket-on-Fergus, O’Callaghans Mills, Toonagh, Tuamgraney and Tulla are the host clubs where 175 games will be played.
Commencing on Friday night and running through until Sunday evening, over 150 adult players will be competing from senior ranks to over 55s.
Finals will be held from 09:30am on Sunday in Clarecastle, Kilkishen and Newmarket-on-Fergus. The senior men’s and women’s finals will be held in Tuamgraney.
This year’s nationals will have the highest female participation to date at 27 including four from Co Clare, last year’s intermediate champion Catriona Millane among them.
Colin Crehan will defend the title he won last year against his doubles partner Diarmaid Nash in a gripping final. Nash warmed up for this weekend’s Nationals by making it to the final of the prestigious Golden Gloves competition in Belfast where he was eventually defeated by five-time All-Ireland champion Robbie McCarthy of Westmeath. McCarthy will travel to Clare next weekend to renew his great rivalry with Nash, who beat him in the 2022 men’s senior title decider only to overturn it and regain the title in March of this year, and others.
Orla Considine, Clare handball secretary said the nationals are “a brilliant opportunity for the promotion of the game in Clare. “Getting to host the nationals is a great opportunity to promote handball in our own county and to promote the county’s strength in and passion for the game nationally. There’s such a great tradition of handball in Clare and we’re hugely competitive as a county but events like this really give the game here a boost.
“It’s super for those already involved in the game in Clare and it’s a super for promotion of handball among children, as well as an opportunity for those curious about the game to go and see some of the top players in the country, in fact in the world, playing against each other. Any sports fan will instantly recognize the skill level of the game, the discipline, the focus and the weekend will see all this on show at the highest level”.