Pic: Charly Shanks after winning the GAA Handball Golden Gloves in Belfast.
by Paul Fitzpatrick
The St Paul's Golden Gloves - the first ranking tournament of the season - traditionally opens the 40x20 season and can provide some clues for the year ahead.
And the big news coming out of Belfast this weekend is that Armagh's Charly Shanks has opened the season in style.
Shanks, beaten in the 2015 All-Ireland senior final by Robbie McCarthy, oozed class throughout the weekend and easily saw off surprise finalist Peter Funchion from Kilkenny 21-6, 21-13 in the final. Funchion, a powerful, aggressive young player, actually led 10-2 in the second game but Shanks utilised his experience and soon found his range to close it out.
The Lurgan right-hander had beaten Limerick's CJ Fitzpatrick at the last four stage, with Funchion seeing off young Clare hurler Colin Crehan in a nailbiting 11-10 tiebreaker.
Crehan, a member of the Banner U21 panel who gave the peerless Paul Brady a decent argument in Los Angeles at the US Open a fortnight ago, had shocked Galway's Martin Mulkerrins in another 11-10 tiebreaker the evening before.
Meanwhile, ladies world champion Aisling Reilly wowed her home crowd at St Paul's as she beat Down's Lorraine Havern in straight games to win the Ladies Open title.
Reilly has now won the All-Ireland, US Nationals, World Championships and US Open in a stellar year.