Handball: Limerick dual star eyeing senior crown
11 May 2012
Limerick's Seamus O'Carroll (right).
Limerick's Seamus O'Carroll, who lost out in both the senior hardball doubles and singles finals in 2011 is aiming to go one step further twelve months on as he prepares to do battle with Meath's Tom Sheridan this weekend.
O'Carroll is one of an elite group of GAA stars who currently mixes inter-county hurling, football and handball as well as college commitments. The Cappagh club player enjoyed an impressive three game victory over Dublin's Eoin Kennedy in the semis last year but came up short in his first senior final appearance, when he fell to the hands of the brilliant Robbie McCarthy of Westmeath.
O'Carroll will now bring that added experience to Sunday's showdown which he will need to draw upon if he is to topple the most experience senior handball campaigner in the top flight, Sheridan. 45 year old Sheridan remains in great physical condition and only lost out narrowly to McCarthy in last year's semi-final in three games. Both players go into this weekend's encounter in fine form with Sheridan accounting for Limerick's CJ Fitzpatrick, while O'Carroll ousted his brother, Padraig in the second semi-final 21-6, 21-18 at Broadford in mid-week.
O'Carroll had been relishing great success in the 40x20 court in March when he captured both the Munster senior singles crown and the Third Level colleges' title but injury followed soon after and that curtailed his progression in the 40x20 championship.
He has managed to bounce back for the hardball series but has endured difficulties in the process. "My preparations hadn't been going all that well for the hardball season and I also missed most of the 40x20 season with a fractured rib. I've only been back playing again for a couple of weeks but I'm in the final now and looking forward to it," he said. "I'm also preparing for the Munster Championship with the Limerick Senior footballers as we are out in championship in just under 2 weeks and I have my final year college exams starting soon so the past few weeks have been hectic. Trying to fit in everything has been very difficult but I'm fit and really enjoying competing again."
O'Carroll found the unique situation of playing his brother in the semi-final a stern test both mentally and physically but is now ready to take the hardball gold back to the Treaty County. "It was extremely difficult playing against my brother Padraig and especially after he had had a great win in the quarter finals over Kerry's Dominick Lynch in the 3rd game so I knew he was going to be very confident playing against me. It was great to see him get his 1st senior win after doing so well in the junior championship last year. He's playing well and hitting the ball very sweetly so I was happy to get the win over him and advance."
Looking ahead to his final opponent, O'Carroll is well aware of the threats that the crafty Kells man brings to the All-Ireland senior hardball final scheduled for Williamstown, Galway. Sheridan is considered as one of the best doubles players ever to have graced the 40x20 and 60x30 courts, having won GAA Handball senior titles with four different partners. "Tom Sheridan's reputation speaks for itself and it's not going to be easy but whoever wins it will deserve it. After last year's disappointment of losing the two hardball finals, I am hoping to make amends this year and at least bring one of the titles back to Limerick."
O'Carroll will also battle with Sheridan one week later as he teams up with CJ Fitzpatrick for the senior hardball doubles semi-final in Mullingar. Limerick faltered in the final last term but Sheridan and Brian Carroll still remain slight favourites to edge the win. The Meath men lost out agonisingly to Cavan's Paul Brady and Michael Finnegan 21-20 in the third game in the 40x20 final last month in Roscommon and will be gunning to get back to another senior doubles showdown. 2011 hardball doubles champs, Dublin's Eoin Kennedy and Egin Jensen clash with Mayo's Vinnie Moran and Campbell Brennan in the first semi-final at the Westmeath venue.