Handballers display Worlds credentials in thrilling Nationals
23 April 2012
Cork's John Herlihy receives the Golden Masters trophy from GAA Handball Ireland President, Walter O'Connor, with runner up, Kildare's Michael Dowling
Capacity crowds turned out to support and enjoy a fantastic weekend of handball in the 2012 GAA Handball O'Neills Irish 40x20 Nationals at 14 venues across Ulster and North Leinster. Following 204 weekend fixtures, a total of 21 Irish Nationals titles were decided while all 6 Junior places and 8 Adult places were also decided on the Official Team Ireland Squad for the 2012 World Handball Championships, to be staged in The Citywest Arena this October.
The Mens Open Singles had it's share of surprises over a frenetic weekend of action which culminated in an impressive back-to-back title win for Westmeath's Robbie McCarthy. The 2011 champion followed up this time around as he powered his way past Dessie Keegan (Mayo) and Brian Carroll (Meath) to set up a final test with Wicklow's Michael Gregan. The Coolboy player had endured three tough encounters to make his first Open final, winning 11-3 in a tie-break against Killian Carroll (Cork), denying number 2 seed Joe McCann (Mayo) and then again going to a tie-break to defeat Cavan's Michael Finnegan 11-5 in the semis.
McCarthy really held all the aces in the final with precision serving and shooting, albeit Gregan was evidently not showing the same sharpness he had displayed in his previous round displays. The US Open of Handball champion, thus took the honours on a 21-9, 21-9 scoreline on a day when both players were announced on the Official Team Ireland Squad in October.
"I got demolished by Brady in the All Ireland senior final and I felt afterwards I didn't do myself justice so I had to focus hard to get ready for the Nationals. Paul's withdrawal probably opened up the Mens Open in a big way and there were a few big results. I train with Michael (Gregan) and I knew it would be tough but he had a tougher run in to the final than me and I think that stood to me. It is great to be on the Official Irish Team now for the Worlds and I can look forward to that but the 60x30 Softball is next on my list so it will be back in there to defend that title", commented McCarthy after his win.
In The Ladies Open, Antrim's Fiona Shannon had appeared in unstoppable form in the last twelve months, winning every major title both in Ireland and in the USA. The St Paul's player had emphatic wins over Anna Spence (Kildare) and Marianna Rushe (Roscommon) to reach the final again but her county colleague, Aisling Reilly, was exhibiting the best form of her career to date in the other half of the draw. Reilly served up devastating form to defeat Kerry's Ashley Prendiville and a 21-3, 21-15 semi-final win over Maria Daly suggested that the 2010 winner may well claim the 2012 honours.
In the final, Reilly was in devastating form and her incredible power and killshots had the All Ireland senior champion in trouble from an early stage, as she opened up a 15-3 lead. However, Shannon did rally and claw her way back into contention to make it 14-18 before Reilly closed out the opening game. The second game was all about the power passing and inch-perfect killshots being delivered by Aisling Reilly. She lead by 5-2 and from there never conceded another ace as she produced 16 unanswered points to claim the game, match and title on a 21-2 scoreline.
"I am delighted with my form and winning this title as it is a big breakthrough for me. I lost to Fiona in the championship and I was determined to raise my game and I felt good in my play all weekend. The World Championships will be a big step but that will be the big target for all the ladies players and it looks set to be the most competitive ever", said the newly crowned Nationals Champion.
Elsewhere, Ducksy Walsh is back on the Official Team Ireland squad after his 21-12, 21-12 win over Meath's Tom Sheridan in the Masters Final while Cork's John Herlihy secured his place on an Irish team for the first time when he denied Kildare's Michael Dowling in a very exciting Golden Masters Final, winning 11-6 in the tie break game.
The 23 & Under grades saw victories for Mayo's Stephen Cooney, who was forced to pull out all the stops in an epic encounter with Limerick's CJ Fitzpatrick, also winning 11-6 in the tie-break while Down's Lorraine Havern defeated teenager Martina McMahon (Limerick) in the Ladies 23 and Under final 21-15, 21-13.
The Junior National Team Trials proved to be as competitive as ever and further emphasised the very high levels of talent at under-age level in this country. In The Boys 19 & Under final, Galway's Martin Mulkerrins defeated Kildare's Niall O'Connor in what was probably the match of the day. There were spectacular rallies, brilliant pass and killshots from both players and hugely entertaining rallies which provided some incredible retrievals. In the end, despite training 18-12 in the first game, Mulkerrins won through 21-19, 21-18 to secure his place on an Official Irish team amazingly for the first time.
The ladies final brought another impressive win for Cork's Catriona Casey, although Armagh's Fionnuala McKenna certainly exhibited considerable progress in ensuring a competitive decider while Clare's Colin Crehan emerged a very impressive winner of the Boys 17 & Under trial grade. Crehan denied Monaghan's Darren Doherty in the final on a 21-6, 21-3 scoreline and in the Girls 17s grade, it was Galway's Ciana Ní Churraoin who took the honours. The Micheal Breathnach's teenager secured her Irish team place with a 21-14, 21-10 win over Roscommon's Lauren O'Riordain.
Two young players also made it on to the Official Irish team for the first time at 15 & Under level, as Meath's Robert Fox came from behind in a hugely entertaining Boys 15 & Under final, to get the better of talented young Tipperary player, Daniel Hayes, in a 11-2 tie-break while Roscommon's Fiona Tully, recent winner of the All Ireland Under 14 singles, claimed the Girls 15 & Under honours with a 21-7, 21-16 win over Armagh's Aoife McConville.
Elsewhere in the Irish Nationals, Meath enjoyed title wins in the Mens A and Mens C Grades courtesy of Carl Browne (Kells) who defeated Wicklow's Jerome Willoughy in the final and Peter Reilly (Kells) who had a 21-17, 21-3 win over Kilkenny's Brendan Burke in his decider. The Mens B title went to Monaghan as Terry Kiernan had a titanic struggle with Kilkenny's Ciaran Neary, before winning 11-6 in the tie break. The destination of the Mens Challenger grade went right tot the wire also as Limerick's Sean Murphy defeated his county colleague, Anthony Donnelly, by 11-10 in the tie-break.
Ulster counties enjoyed success in number of the Masters grades as Sean Devine (Antrim) won out in the Mens 35+ grade, defeating Paul Graham in the final, while Sean McNally (Down) won the Silver Masters, Conor McDonnell of Monaghan claimed the Golden Masters B, Anthony Caddell (Antrim) was a winner in the Emerald Masters Singles and Seamus Graham (Antrim) won the Ruby Masters event. Monaghan also emerged with a win in the Mens 23 & Under B grade, when Christopher McKenna denied Kilkenny's Dan Breen in the final while Galway had a third win at the weekend in the Masters B Singles, Morgan Duggan getting the better of Mayo's Jason Judge. Carlow's John Rossiter followed up his All Ireland success with a tie-break win over Dublin's Eugene Kennedy in the Diamond Masters final. The ladies grades wins were completed by Laura Keaver of Longford in the Ladies B Singles while Offaly's Christina Donoghue enjoyed her first Nationals success in the Ladies Challenger.
Results: GAA Handball O'Neill's Irish 40x20 Nationals Finals
Mens Open Final: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt.
Robbie McCarthy (Westmeath) dft Michael Gregan (Wicklow) 21-9, 21-9
Mens 23 & Under Final: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt
Stephen Cooney (Mayo) dft CJ Fitzpatrick (Limerick) 21-6, 17-21, 11-6
Masters Singles Final: Friday 20th April 2012, in Kingscourt, Court 3, 6.15pm:
Ducksy Walsh (Kilkenny) dft Tom Sheridan (Meath) 21-12, 21-11
Golden Masters Singles Final: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt
John Herlihy (Cork) dft Michael Dowling (Kildare) 21-4, 17-21, 11-6
Ladies Open Final: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt.
Aisling Reilly (Antrim) dft Fiona Shannon (Antrim) 21-14, 21-2
Ladies 23 & Under Final: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt.
Lorraine Havern(Down) dft Martina McMahon (Limerick) 21-15, 21-13
Mens A Final: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt
Carl Browne (Meath) dft Jerome Willoughby (Wicklow) 21-19, 21-10
Mens B Final: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Carrickmacross, Monaghan, 1.15pm
Terry Kiernan (Monaghan) dft Ciaran Neary(Kilkenny) 21-14, 14-21, 11-6
Mens C Final: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Saval, County Down, 12.30pm
Peter O'Reilly(Meath) dft Brendan Burke(Kilkenny) 21-17, 21-3
Mens Challenger Final: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Saval, County Down, 1.30pm.
Sean Murphy(Limerick) dft Anthony Donnelly(Limerick) 10-21, 21-16, 11-10
Mens 35+ Singles Final: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt.
Sean Devine (Antrim) dft Paul Graham (Antrim) 21-12, 21-4
Masters B Singles Singles Final: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt.
Morgan Duggan (Galway) dft Jason Judge (Mayo) 21-12, 21-19
Silver Masters Singles Final: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt.
Sean McNally (Down) dft Paul Dowling (Kilkenny) 21-8, 18-21, 11-4
Golden Masters B Singles Final: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt.
Conor McDonnell (Monaghan) dft Denis Phelan (Galway) 21-12, 21-16
Diamond Masters Singles Final: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt.
John Rossiter (Carlow) dft Eugene Kennedy (Dublin) 15-21, 21-4, 11-0
Emerald Masters Singles Final: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt.
Anthony Caddell (Antrim) dft Gerry McGrath (Wicklow) 21-5, 21-17
Ruby Masters Final: Sunday 22nd April, in Kingscourt.
Seamus Graham(Antrim) dft Morgan Darcy (Galway) 21-19, 21-11
Mens 23 & Under B Final: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Carrickamcross
Christopher McKenna (Monaghan) dft Dan Breen (Kilkenny) 21-8, 21-17
Ladies B Singles Final: Saturday 21st April 2012, in Bawn, Monaghan, 2.45pm
Laura Keaver (Abbeyside) dft Niamh Egan (Westmeath) 21-10, 21-20
Ladies Challenger Singles Final: Saturday 21st April 2012, in Bawn, Monaghan, 3.45pm
Christina Donoghue (Offaly) dft Collette Connaughton (Galway)
Worlds Junior Team Ireland Trials Finals
B15 & Under FINAL: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt, Cavan
Robert Fox(Meath) dft Daniel Hayes (Tipperary) 16-21, 21-11, 11-2
B17 & Under FINAL: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt, Cavan
Colin Crehan (Clare) dft Darren Doherty (Monaghan) 21-6, 21-13
B19 & Under FINAL: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt, Cavan
Martin Mulkerrins (Galway) dft Niall O'Connor (Kildare) 21-19, 21-18
G15 & Under FINAL: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt, Cavan
Fiona Tully (Roscommon) dft Aoife McConville (Armagh) 21-7, 21-16
G17 & Under FINAL: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt, Cavan
Ciana Ní Churraoin (Galway) dft Lauren O'Riordain (Roscommon) 21-14, 21-10
G19 & Under FINAL: Sunday 22nd April 2012, in Kingscourt, Cavan
Catriona Casey (Cork) dft Fionnuala McKenna (Armagh) 21-6, 21-3