On a particularly busy weekend for handball with the first series of all-Ireland adult and juvenile finals, the overall picture was one of great joy for many of Mayo’s contenders although there were some disappointments also.
Dessie Keegan got the weekend underway as he faced All-Ireland senior singles champion Robbie McCarthy for a place in this year’s showcase decider at Abbeylara. It was level pegging for much of the first game as the sides were level at 6 aces and 8 aces each, but McCarthy slowly asserted his dominance and racked up 10 aces without reply. Keegan added two more to his tally but lost out 21 aces to 10 at the finish. McCarthy assumed control of matters after that and ran out a comfortable winner of the second. Dublin’s Eoin Kennedy won the other semi-final in impressive fashion to set up a repeat of last year’s final at the Longford venue in two week’s time.
Not for the first time in recent memory it was the ladies’ senior final, the final match on the Abbeylara card, which served up the best entertainment of the afternoon. Amy Corrigan and Pauline Gallagher were in no mood to surrender their hard-won title of last year when they faced the fancied Cork duo of Catriona Casey and Aisling O’Keffee. The champions got off to a flying start and led 12 aces to 2 early on and never looked back after that, and they took the opener 21 aces to 12. The second was a much closer affair with the sides level on a number of occasions and Corrigan and Gallagher served out game ball at 20 aces to 16 only to see the game snatched from their grasp on a 21 aces to 20 scoreline. One might have expected that disappointment to dent the Mayo challenge in the deciding third but Corrigan and Gallagher are made of very stern stuff indeed and they again went on to command in the third which they won impressively 21 aces to 12 to see them emerge as worthy winners.
Elsewhere Mayo were to taste disappointment in two masters’ finals as Kevin Geraghty and Martin Cronin lost out to Leinster and Munster opposition at Mullingar, while Peter Cassidy was also beaten despite a stirring performance in the junior B singles final at Williamstown. Vinnie Moran was well beaten by the impressive Dominic Lynch in the men’s over 35s A singles final. Niall Joyce was desperately unlucky in the boys’ under-15 All-Ireland final played at St McCartan’s in Monaghan.
It was a remarkable weekend for the Fahey household as Kevin Fahey won his first all-Ireland title when he beat Louth’s Sean Devlin 21-7, 21-12 to secure the diamond master B title at Kingscourt on Saturday, while daughter Jennifer, an underage champion, secured the ladies’ junior B title with an impressive display against a fancied Aine Casey from Kerry on a 21-12, 21-2 scoreline.
The Belcarra club were also out in force at Tuamgraney on Sunday as youngster Shauna Ruane took on Cork’s Brid Hogan in the All-Ireland girls’ under 17 singles final. A desperately nervous Ruane failed to chalk up a single ace in the opening game but managed, with the help and guidance of her coaches, to come out fighting for the second. Slowly but surely she found her game and aided by some fine killing and serving she deservedly won the second 21 aces to 12. With the deciding tie-break to 11 aces, there was little margin for error and Ruane was not going to be denied and she impressively took this one 11 aces to 6.
All roads lead to Abbeylara this Saturday as Dessie Keegan and Joe McCann bid to secure an elusive senior softball doubles title. The three-match programme gets under way at 2.15pm.