Preview: All-Ireland 4-Wall Senior Doubles:

By Paul Fitzpatrick

The stage is set for the last eight of the All-Ireland 4-Wall Senior Doubles, which serves off on Saturday morning at 10am at the National Handball Centre in Croke Park.

First up is the meeting of defending champions Clare (Diarmaid Nash and Colin Crehan) and Wexford (Gavin Buggy and Adam Walsh).

The Banner start as favourites on their first outing of the season given their pedigree and undoubted quality. The lefty-right Wexford partnership had an excellent straight-games win over Monaghan last time out, despite the experienced Buggy carrying a niggle on the day, but they will need to be at their very best to have a chance of upsetting the outstanding Clare pair.

Game two is a battle between last year’s senior runners-up and last year’s intermediate runners-up as Cork’s Daniel Relihan and Michael Hedigan take on Paul Moran and Kevin Diggins of Kildare.

The Rebels enjoyed an excellent run last year and complement each other very well; Relihan’s smooth shot-making earns lots of points from the left while Hedigan’s great reach and smart defensive play makes him a superb foil on the right.

Citeog Diggins and Leixlip clubmate Moran had an impressive win over Tipperary in the round of 16 and can’t be ruled out but Cork will start as favourites.

The all-Leinster derby of Kilkenny v Wicklow should be a cracker. The Funchion brothers, Paddy and Peter, from the Kells club have been among the leading doubles pairs for some years now while both men also compete at the upper end of the singles bracket. Surprisingly, they have yet to contest a Senior Doubles final and they will be determined to put that right this year.

However, there will be nothing easy against the experienced Coolboy duo. Michael Gregan was brilliant on the left last time out as they saw off Tyrone in a tiebreaker after a thrilling game, Jerome Willoughby sealing it with a pinpoint underhand right-corner kill.

The fourth of the matches is the meeting of Meath and Cork as softball kings Brian Carroll and Gary McConnell from Kells take on the Mallow-Ballydesmond pairing of David Walsh and Brendan Fleming.

This is an intriguing tie. The Meathmen are a terrific team, with McConnell’s power and class paired with Carroll’s speed and ambidextrous kills.

They will be fancied by many to regain this title but Walsh and Fleming are potentially dark horses. The younger Walsh has great power and an outstanding serve while the canny Fleming is one of the smartest players in the game and will relish the challenge.

The Royals are favourites and rightly so but this could be a close affair. The matches will be streamed live on the Sport TG4 YouTube channel, with highlights on TG4 on Monday night. All-Ireland 4-Wall Senior Doubles quarter-finals

Saturday, February 17, National Handball Centre, Croke Park, 10am, Showcourt.

MSD QF: Clare (Diarmuid Nash & Colin Crehan) v Wexford (Gavin Buggy & Adam Walsh) 10am

MSD QF: Cork (Daniel Relihan & Michael Hedigan) v Kildare (Kevin Diggins & Paul Moran)

MSD QF: Kilkenny (Paddy Funchion & Peter Funchion) v Wicklow (Michael Gregan & Jerome Willoughby)

MSD QF: Meath (Gary McConnell & Brian Carroll) v Cork (David Walsh & Brendan Fleming)