Things are now starting to get serious on the national handball stage and a total of nineteen Tyrone players will feature in a packed programme of All-Ireland semi-final fixtures this coming weekend as the 2017 championships reach the penultimate stage in all the juvenile grades and in all the adult singles competitions.
Tyrone emerged with an impressive final tally of 14 Ulster juvenile championship titles (out of 24) and 8 adult provincial titles last week, and the All-Ireland juvenile semi-finals featuring the champions of Ulster and Munster are now scheduled to take place on Sunday in Kingscourt, with all the adult championship singles semi-finals also down for decision over the weekend at various venues.
All the winners from this weekend will then go forward to the eagerly awaited All-Ireland festival weekend which will be staged in Kingscourt from Friday 17th to Sunday 19th March.
Tyrone will compete in eight All-Ireland juvenile championship semi-finals on Sunday and hopes are high that the county will make it through to a number of finals but any victory against the Munster representatives will be hard earned.
Ulster will have the benefit of home advantage for all the juvenile semi-finals, but Munster will be bringing a strong pool of young talent to Kingscourt.
Tyrone will feature in no fewer than five juvenile singles semi-finals and three double semi-finals, with seven girls and four boys flying the county flag against representatives from Clare, Cork, Kerry and Limerick.
Lorcan McBride will again spearhead the Tyrone challenge in the under-16 singles bracket and while Lorcan is widely regarded as favourite to win the blue riband juvenile title this year, he has a serious assignment ahead of him on Sunday as he will be meeting last year’s All Ireland under-15 singles champion, Clare’s Mark Rodgers.
The Carrickmore star showed his quality in the Ulster final against Monaghan’s Eoghan McGinnity and he will have to be on top of his game again to take care of his next challenge, but Lorcan is a young player of the highest quality and is always ready for every challenge he encounters, so it will be a shock if even an opponent of Mark Rodgers’ ability is able to stop the Tyrone player’s drive towards the All Ireland title.
Mairead Fox is also highly fancied to reach the top singles final at under-16 in the girls division but will need to be wary of the potential threat posed by Clare’s Amber Nolan, Mairead’s opponent in last year’s All Ireland under-14 singles decider.
The Loughmacrory girl should be too strong again for the Munster champion and is tipped to qualify for the girls’ under-16 showpiece.
The McCartan duo, Caolan and Michaela, will be striving to maintain their historic double challenge for honours when they feature in the under-17 boys and girls singles semi-finals on Sunday.
Caolan has a tough battle on his hands against Kerry’s Daire Keane but is playing the best handball of his career at present and is expected to produce another bold showing, while Michaela has a great chance of progressing to the girls final when she takes on Cork’s Aoife Hurley.
The fifth Tyrone player involved in one of the juvenile singles semi-finals will be Clodagh Munroe who has a big test ahead of her when she meets Clare’s Chloe Philpott in the under-14 singles championship. The exciting Carrickmore prospect is well capable of reaching her first All-Ireland championship final, despite the fact that she still has another year at under-14 level.
Tyrone will feature in three juvenile doubles semi-finals in Kingscourt and the under-16 girls doubles pairing of Caitlin Conway and Elizabeth McGarvey look to have an outstanding chance of qualifying for the national decider when they tackle Clare.
Caitlin, who is just back from injury, and Elizabeth have previously won an All Ireland doubles title together at under-14 level in the 60×30 code and are seen as one of Tyrone’s best hopes for All Ireland honours in the current 40×20 championships.
Meabh McCrystall and Claire Conway will represent Tyrone against Limerick in the girls under-17 doubles and will go into battle with a fine chance of progressing, while Breacach pair Jonathan Owens and Jack Darcy are more than capable of advancing to the All-Ireland under-14 boys doubles final at the expense of Clare’s Tiarnan Slattery and Patrick Crotty.
Tyrone have enjoyed a golden era in the All Ireland juvenile championships in recent years and there looks to be every chance that the great run can continue in 2017, but there are certainly some challenging fixtures ahead for the eleven young Tyrone players heading to Kingscourt on Sunday.
ALL IRELAND 40X20 JUVENILE CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI FINALS
Sunday 5th March @ Kingscourt (starting 11.30am)
U14 boys doubles: Jonathan Owens & Jack Darcy (Tyrone) v Tiarnan Slattery & Patrick Crotty (Clare)
U14 girls singles: Clodagh Munroe (Tyrone) v Chloe Philpott (Clare)
U16 boys singles: Lorcan McBride (Tyrone) v Mark Rodgers (Clare)
U16 girls singles: Mairead Fox (Tyrone) v Amber Nolan (Clare)
U16 girls doubles: Caitlin Conway & Elizabeth McGarvey (Tyrone) v Orla O Brien & Shauna Doyle (Clare)
U17 boys singles: Caolan McCartan (Tyrone) v Dara Keane (Kerry)
U17 girls singles: Michaela McCartan (Tyrone) v Aoife Hurley (Cork)
U17 girls doubles: Meabh McCrystall & Claire Conway (Tyrone) v Ciara Mc Carthy & Keri Murphy (Limerick)
Eight Tyrone players in All Ireland adult semi-finals…
On an extremely busy weekend in the 2017 championships, Tyrone will have eight players battling for All Ireland final places against Munster opposition on Saturday.
Beragh will host an attractive triple bill on Saturday afternoon featuring Barney Corcoran, Eilise McCrory and Michelle Warren, while Carrickmore’s Ryan Mullan will be at home for his All-Ireland under-21 championship semi-final.
Ryan has been performing with great distinction on the intervarsity scene this year and has just returned this week from the US Collegiate championships in Arizona, which will have provided great training for his All Ireland semi-final on Saturday against Clare’s Colin Corbett.
Ryan’s recent epic win over Johnny Woods in the Ulster final is brilliant form and with home advantage against the powerful Clare player he has the quality to go through to the All Ireland under 21 final.
While Ryan is playing his semi-final on home soil, his clubmate Cormac Munroe must travel all the way to Mallow in County Cork on Saturday for a really difficult assignment against Tadhg O’Neill, the favourite for the All-Ireland minor championship title.
The Munster champion reached the minor showpiece last year and was denied by Tyrone’s Sean Kerr in an exciting match, and he is fancied by many to go a step further twelve months on.
However, Cormac is a brilliant competitor and the Ulster champion will be heading to Cork to give his all. He is more than capable of pushing the Cork star all the way in what could turn out to be one of the best games of the weekend.
Accompanying Cormac on the Mallow programme will be Shane O’Neill and the experienced Breacach man will be hoping to go through to the All Ireland intermediate decider when he faces Cork’s Tadhg Carroll.
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Shane has been knocking on the door at intermediate level for a number of years and if he plays to his full potential he has every chance of progressing to the final and following in the footsteps of his clubmate Conor McEduff who took the intermediate title in 2016.
The Curran brothers, Chris and Kenny, also face long journeys on Saturday to Tipperary and Limerick respectively for their All Ireland semi-finals.
ALL IRELAND 40X20 ADULT CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI FINALS
Saturday 4th March 2017…
At Galbally, Limerick @ 1pm
Golden Masters B singles: Limerick (John Ryan) v Tyrone (Kenny Curran)
At Mallow, Cork @ 2pm
Minor singles: Cork (Tagdh O’Neill) v Tyrone (Cormac Munroe or Ciaran Cuddy)
Intermediate singles: Cork (Tadgh Carroll) v Tyrone (Shane O’Neill)
At Silvermines, Tipperary @ 3pm
Masters B singles: Tipperary (Brian O’Brien) v Tyrone (Chris Curran)
At Carrickmore, Tyrone @ 2pm
Under-21 singles: Tyrone (Ryan Mullan) v Clare (Colin Corbett)
At Beragh, Tyrone @ 2pm
Ladies Junior singles: Tyrone (Eilise McCrory) v Limerick (Katie McCarthy)
Ladies Junior B singles: Tyrone (Michelle Warren) v Cork (Brid Horgan)
Golden Masters A singles: Tyrone (Barney Corcoran) v Cork (John Herlihy)
TYRONE’S ULSTER 40X20 JUVENILE CHAMPIONS 2016
U12 boys singles: Eoin McElholm
U13 boys doubles: Conor Owens & Patrick McCann
U14 boys doubles: Jonathan Owens & Jack Darcy
U16 boys singles: Lorcan McBride
U17 boys singles: Caolan McCartan
U12 girl singles: Dearbhail Fox
U12 girls doubles: Bronagh Farley & Tara Curran
U13 girls singles: Cloda McNamee
U13 girls doubles: Kerry McNamee & Bronagh McWilliams
U14 girls singles: Clodagh Munroe
U16 girls singles: Mairead Fox
U16 girls doubles: Caitlin Conway & Elizabeth McGarvey
U17 girls singles: Michaela McCartan
U17 girls doubles: Meabh McCrystall & Claire Conway
U13 boys singles: Gary McAleer
U15 girls doubles: Dervla Farley & Ellie Jane Quinn
U17 boys doubles: Finn Given & Conor Martin
TYRONE’S ULSTER 40X20 ADULT CHAMPIONS 2016
Minor singles: Cormac Munroe
Under-21 singles: Ryan Mullan
Intermediate singles: Shane O’Neill
Ladies junior singles: Eilise McCrory
Ladies junior B singles: Michelle Warren
Masters B singles: Chris Curran
Golden masters A singles: Barney Corcoran
Golden masters B singles: Kenny Curran