New Ladies Champ Assured
08 August 2012
Cork's Catriona Casey
Two of Ireland's finest handballing exponents will go head to head this weekend in the GAA Handball Ladies Senior softball singles final in Thurles with a new winner guaranteed on the cup by Saturday evening.
Mayo's Pauline Gallagher and Cork's Catriona Casey have progressed to the ladies decider with both showing the credentials to lift their first ever senior singles title with impressive showings in their respective semi-finals.
Gallagher accounted for the highly rated Wicklow's Shauna Hilley in three games 21-0, 11-21, 21-4 while Casey ousted the only former champion left in the field, Kerry's Ashley Prendiville 21-13, 16-21, 21-9.
Gallagher, who collected her first senior doubles gong twelve months ago alongside Amy Corrigan is relishing the prospect of winning a senior crown in her favourite handball code. "The 60x30 has always been a favourite code for me so I was eager to get stuck into training this year and knew I had a lot to improve on from previous years and so I have worked hard for the last few months to strengthen my game. Dessie Keegan has been a huge help in advising me how to improve my game. I knew my semi-final was going to be tough and I needed to play hard from start to finish. Shauna (Hilley) is an excellent player and very fast around the court so to beat her in the semi was a huge confidence boost for me in preparation for the final this weekend."
Gallagher has prepared well as she aims to reach a goal she has been dreaming about for a very long time but is all too aware of the difficult obstacle in Casey that stands in her way. "I knew coming through the championship I was going to meet some very tough opponents. Catriona (Casey) is a very intelligent player and after playing her last year I knew I had to put the head down and train harder for this year which I have done so. I'm excited now about this final. I don't think words could explain the feeling of winning a senior singles title. I've been playing for nine years and have learnt more and more every year from different players and different games. I've put in the work and it has been a goal for a long time now so to win a senior singles title would be amazing!"
Gallagher has accumulated an impressive array of accolades in her nine years to date which includes the Under 23 Irish nationals One Wall title, the 60x30 doubles gold medal and USA Nationals and Collegiate titles. She will need to bring all those experiences to the table this Saturday evening as she attempts to outshine one of the most gifted talents in the ladies game, Casey.
Like Gallagher, Casey is preparing for both the singles and doubles finals this term and she has put in the long hours to ensure she plays at her optimum this weekend. "My preparation for the two finals has been going quite well. I have been playing training games, while also working on other aspects of my game. Obviously fitness is an important factor, especially with the possibility of 3 long games to 21, so this week in the lead-up to the singles I'm hoping to conserve energy and be in the best condition possible for Saturday."
"Pauline (Gallagher) had an impressive win in the semi-final, with a particularly convincing score line in game 1. It would appear she is on top of her own game at the moment and so I will have to be at my very best if I am to secure victory. I know that nothing can be taken for granted and Pauline will give away nothing soft on the day." commented Casey.
Casey, unlike her opponent prefers the 40x20 code but still loves playing and competing in the traditional Irish game. "It would mean everything to me to win my first senior title. To be honest, I am more at home in the 40x20 court but at the same time I think it is very important to continue the tradition of the big alley game. I've put more in to my big alley training this summer than other years so hopefully it will pay off. A win would give me great confidence and hope for the future, especially as this is my first year out of minor."
The Ladies Senior decider will form part of an enticing triple bill of All Ireland action with the M Donnelly Mens Open Doubles All Ireland Championship semi finals also down for decision.
There is also a comprehensive programme of All Ireland championship semi finals in 60x30 at adult and juvenile level at 17 venues around the country in a comprehensive weekend of All Ireland handball action.
Saturday 11th August, Thurles, Tipperary:
GAA Handball Ladies Open Singles Final, 3pm: Cork (Catriona Casey) v Mayo (Pauline Gallagher)
M Donnelly GAA Handball Mens Open Doubles Semi Finals, 4pm: Wexford (Colin Keeling & Barry Goff) OR Wexford (Gavin Buggy & Paul Lambert) v Dublin (Eoin Kennedy & Egin Jensen) OR Meath (Tom Sheridan & Brian Carroll)
M Donnelly GAA Handball Mens Open Doubles Semi Finals, 5.15pm: Mayo (Dessie Keegan & Joe McCann) v Kilkenny (Michael Walsh & Michael Clifford) OR Limerick (Seamus O'Carroll & CJ Fitzpatrick)