Gregan takes on top field in first ranking event of 2012
Michael Gregan will return to 40×20 court action this weekend for the 3rd Annual John Gaffney Memorial tournament in Ballaghaderreen, for the first time since the Wicklow speedster was sidelined after sustaining a broken ankle just over twelve months ago.
Currently ranked at number 8 in the country, Gregan has been knocking on the door in the elite grade in recent seasons but has yet to realise his dream goal of an All-Ireland senior title.
In 2010, the Coolboy star had progressed to the senior championship semi-final and was anticipating going one better in 2011 but due to injury, that scenario didn’t materialise for one of the quickest players in the domestic game.
He begins his preparations in earnest this weekend as he strives to topple a top class field which will descend in Ballaghaderreen, County Mayo, for the first national ranking open tournament of 2012.
Top seed for this weekend’s action is 2011 US Open champion, Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy. The 2011 Male Player of the year enjoyed incredible success in the last twelve months which included the 60×30 senior hardball and softball titles and the Irish Nationals 40×20 trophy. The 22 year old Mullingar man, who became Ireland’s third ever player to scoop a US open win last October, will be the favourite to take the honours.
One player to watch out for is Cork’s Killian Carroll who is regarded as the hottest junior prospect in the world. The Mallow teenager returned home from Tucson, Arizona just a fortnight ago with his third USA Junior title secured in the 19 and under cohort. Carroll also finished runner up in the last senior ranking event at the Golden Gloves in Belfast last October.
Local players, Dessie Keegan and Golden Gloves champion, Joe McCann, will also be in the mix for silverware and they are seeded at 2 and 4 respectively. Ulster’s chief threat will come in the form of Cavan’s Michael Finnegan who brings a wealth of experience and power to the court.
Gregan will be keen to get a few competitive games under his belt but is also aware that titles aren’t handed out in January.
“I think this tournament is a good way to get ready for the championship and blow away the cobwebs. I don’t think the results will be overly significant this weekend as to how anyone is playing as it is still early in the season. Nevertheless, I hear young Killian Carroll is going to be a star and of course you would have to keep your eye on Robbie McCarthy.
“My preparations have been fine as Christmas is just over and my fitness level wouldn’t be as good as I hope it will be this time next month. I missed the whole of last year’s 40×20 season with a broken ankle and after getting to the senior championship semi final the year before I would like to prove myself as a top small alley player. I hope to do that in the championship, the Irish nationals and at the worlds in October and make up for last year.”
Gregan has celebrated success in nearly every grade in both 60×30 and 40×20 from under 14 to intermediate and after playing the role of spectator in 2011, he may well bring a new vigour to his game and seriously challenge once more for the title that continues to elude him.
“I’ve won a world’s A title and All-Irelands at under14, under 16, minor, under 21 and intermediate, all in both alleys. All I’m missing is a senior and I’m running out of time, so I’ll be putting a massive effort in.”