Dublin legend Kennedy back for big court challenge
13 June 2012
Dublin's Eoin Kennedy celebrates another win.
Dublin's Eoin Kennedy will team up with Cavan's Michael Finnegan in an attempt to capture the men's open doubles bracket at the 2012 GAA Handball Irish 60x30 Nationals in Kilkenny this weekend.
32 year old Kennedy dominated the traditional 60x30 arena akin to Paul Brady (Cavan) who has ruled the 40x20 court since the turn of the century. But unlike the Breffni man, Kennedy missed out on the opportunity of securing an eighth straight title in the senior singles in 2011. Then the St. Brigid's club man lost out to the current softball champion, Westmeath's Robbie McCarthy in the 60x30, while Brady cruised to an eighth successive win in April, also against McCarthy.
Kennedy is now only returning to the competitive scene since that final setback last September and many would still foresee him going on to reach the summit for a ninth time.
Since 2002, Kennedy has amassed a staggering 25 senior All-Ireland titles across three codes:- 60x30 softball, 60x30 hardball and 40x20 in both singles and doubles. Few players in the history of the game can boast a more impressive handballing CV.
Voted Irish player of the year on six occasions, Kennedy has collected 14 senior singles and 11 senior doubles wins and 2 world senior doubles titles with two different players, Finnegan in 2009 and Cork's Tony Healy in 2006. He has also secured the Canadian Open Nationals and has enjoyed three victories at the Irish Nationals.
The very affable and naturally athletic Kennedy has been putting in the hours in the gym since January in order to get back to championship pace in the coming weeks. Having taken a well-earned break, he now feels rejuvenated and almost ready for the challenges that lie ahead.
"My preparation is still underway to be honest. I took a break from the game after the softball final last September as I started a part-time Executive MBA at UCD and I just didn't have the time to train and compete with the time required for work and study. I haven't taken a break from handball of more than a few weeks since I started playing senior handball 15 years ago so I feel quite refreshed and hungry. I've been training in the gym since January but only started back playing in mid-May so I have a bit to go to get full sharpness back. However, I'm really enjoying the training again."
That 2012 GAA senior softball championship title is the objective of every senior softball player at the start of the season. That series will commence next month but for the meantime, Kennedy has his sights firmly set on Kilkenny this weekend.
"I'm really looking forward to the 60x30 Nationals this weekend. With the Open Doubles tournament taking place in the 60x30 stronghold of Kilkenny, particularly in the historic Talbot's Inch court, there will be big crowds and there should be a fantastic atmosphere."
Kennedy combined with Kingscourt's highly experienced Finnegan in 2009 to scoop the World doubles title in Portland, Oregon. Three years on and the successful duo has joined forces once again.
"I'm also really looking forward to teaming up with Michael again and it will be our first time playing together since we won the World Open Doubles title in Portland, USA in 2009. Michael is a great player with amazing power and the ability to kill the ball from anywhere in the court so it is always a pleasure to play with him. Hopefully we can put in a good performance."
The Dublin/Cavan combination have a very tricky assignment in the quarter final as they go head to head with 2011 senior finalists, Mayo's Dessie Keegan and Joe McCann.
The undisputed number one side in the country in 2011 were Wexford's Barry Goff and Colin Keeling who claimed both the Irish Nationals and the senior championship gold medals. They will be strong favourites to overcome the winners of the tie involving Mayo's Vinnie Moran and Campbell Brennan who meet Kilkenny's Nicky Anthony and Brian Manogue.
2010 winners in the 60x30, Meath's Tom Sheridan and Brian Carroll will also be gunning to regain the championship gong in September. They got their season off to a winning start recently when they were victorious over the champions from Wexford at a Kells tournament. The pair from the Royal County look set to clash with Dominick Lynch and Gavin Buggy (Kerry/Wexford) in the last eight.
The remaining quarter final matchup brings together two sides that could remain unbeaten in Kilkenny. GAA hardball senior doubles winners for the first time last month, Limerick's Seamus O'Carroll and CJ Fitzpatrick face current senior 60x30 singles champion, Mullingar's Robbie McCarthy and Wicklow's highly rated Michael Gregan.
Mens Open Doubles:
Saturday 16th June 2012, in Talbot's Inch, Kilkenny
MO Round 1: Talbot's Inch, Kilkenny
10.00am: 1. Vinnie Moran/Campbell Brennan (Mayo) v Nicky Anthony/Brian Manogue (Kilkenny)
10.30am: 2. Dominick Lynch/Gavin Buggy (Kerry/Wexford) v Shane O'Neill/Partner (Tyrone)
MO Quarter-Finals: Talbot's Inch, Kilkenny
11.00am: 3. Barry Goff/Colin Keeling (Wexford) v Winner Match 1
11.30am: 4. Robbie McCarthy/Michael Gregan (Westmeath/Wicklow) v Seamus O'Carroll/CJ Fitzpatrick (Limerick)
12.15pm: 5. Dessie Keegan/Joe McCann (Mayo) v Eoin Kennedy/Michael Finnegan (Dublin/Cavan)
1.00pm: 6. Tom Sheridan/Brian Carroll (Meath)v Winner Match 2
MO Cup Semi-Finals: Talbot's Inch, Kilkenny
2.30pm: A. Winner Match 3 v Winner Match 4
3.00pm: B. Winner Match 5 v Winner Match 6
MO Cup Final: Talbot's Inch, Kilkenny
6.30pm: Winner Match A v Winner Match B
plus 13 additional events in Clogh, Kilfayne, Mullinavat (Kilkenny) and Garryhill (Carlow) on Saturday 16th/Sunday 17th June 2012.