Overall it was a great weekend for Mayo’s handballers young and old, male and female, and a one hundred per cent record in all competitions, two All-Ireland titles and the possibility of two further titles this Saturday.
Dessie Keegan and Joe McCann have once again reached the All-Ireland senior doubles final, they were pushed every inch of the way by Roscommon contenders, Damian Martin and Ricky O’Gara, in the semi-final at Broadford on Saturday afternoon last. Indeed the meeting of the top Connacht senior doubles pairings served up a thrilling contest but the Roscommon men must surely have been wondering where did it all go wrong.
Martin and O’Gara made all the running in the opening game and looked odds on to take it when they led 16 aces to 5 at one stage. However Keegan and McCann battled their way back into the contest and once they levelled at 17 aces all their combined experience really told and they won the opening game 21 aces to 17, amassing 16 unanswered aces in the process. They kept a much closer rein on their opponents in the second and once again found themselves behind 13-17 at one stage, but as with the first game they forged ahead to take this one 21-19 and a place in Saturday’s final at the same venue, in a repeat of last year’s final against Meath duo Tom Sheridan and Brain Carroll.
Mayo’s Martin Cronin put in another fine performance on Saturday as he defeated Donegal’s Dave Mulhern to take the diamond masters A singles title. Mulhern pushed Cronin all the way in the opening game but Cronin’s superior fitness and overall alley craft was enough to take the title on a 21-19, 21-12 scoreline.
Swinford’s Jennifer Fahy made the trip to Kells on Saturday to take on Tyrone’s Maeve Mc Elduff with high hopes of adding the ladies’ junior singles title to the junior B title won last year. In what was a thrilling contest, McElduff won the opening game 21 aces to 15, but a determined Fahy fought back to the take second game 21 aces to 17 and she had enough in reserve to take the deciding third 21 aces to 15 and a well-deserved ladies’ junior singles title.
Mayo’s only contender in the All-Ireland juvenile semi-finals at Talbot’s Inch, Niall Joyce, put in a tremendous display to see off the challenge of Leinster champion, Padraig Cooney, to reach the boys’ under 16 singles final. Joyce won the opening game 21 aces to 10 but missed out on his chance to close out the contest when he lost the second by a single ace. Undeterred the Claremorris native took the tie-break third 11 aces to 7 to set up a final appearance again Brian McAneney of Armagh in two weeks time. Roscommon and Galway also claimed semi-final victories in the boys’ under 14 singles and doubles respectively.
While the senior doubles final meeting between Mayo and Meath takes centre stage at Broadford in Co Limerick on Saturday, on a three match card that gets under way at 2.30pm with Cork versus Wexford in the minor doubles decider, the second game promises to be a thriller. It features two of the country’s top intermediate handballers, Ballaghaderreen’s Stephen Cooney and Tipperary’s Fergal Collins. Cooney has been in the best form of his career of late and has every chance of victory against a worthy opponent.