A young Irish team faces a week of non-stop action at the World Racquetball Championships in Seoul, South Korea, which start tomorrow.
Patrick Hanley, Joe Dillon, Majella Haverty and Katie Kenny will compete in the singles and doubles as well as the team competition, which comes at the end of next week. Usually a team would consist of four men and four women.
Ireland, hosts of the last World Championships in 2008, is the only complete European team competing at these championships. Korea, hosting the games for a second time, has invested over US$700,000 in the event which will be played in seven portable courts plus a showcase, full-glass stadium court.
Current national men's champion Joe Dillon of Kingscourt leads the team, backed up by Fermoy's Patrick Hanley, runner-up in the 2009 national singles and by some way the most experienced campaigner on the team.
Dillon is still playing at under-18 level, while Majella Haverty and Katie Kenny are both graduates of Castlebar's successful juvenile programme.
Kenny, still playing at under-17 level, won the women's 'A' singles at the Castlebar Open in March, where Haverty reached the open singles final. Kenny also reached the final of the women's singles at the Arklow Open. In that tournament she paired up with Haverty to win the doubles.
Haverty's best result came at the Moylagh Open, where she beat the veteran Susan Neary in the women's open final. She also beat Kenny in the B women's final at the National Championships.
Racquetball is particularly strong on the American continent, with large teams entered from Canada, Mexico, Bolivia, Venezuela and Guatemala in particular. Leading them all is the USA with a team of 16, including such legends of the sport as Rocky Carson, Jack Huczek and Cheryl Gudinas.
Asian counties represented include Japan with a team of nine, India with four and Taiwan with three.
An interesting entry is the nine-strong team from the Pacific island state of Tonga, better known for producing rugby players.
Players will contest the individual competition first and then the team contest later in the week.