McCarthy edges out Kennedy in cracker

Westmeath’s defending champion, Robbie McCarthy, has retained his All-Ireland Softball (60x30) Men’s Open Senior Singles title, defeating second-ranked Eoin Kennedy (St. Brigid’s, Blanchardstown), in two games at Abbeylara in Co. Longford.

Kennedy, who claimed seven successive titles from 2004 to 2010, returned to top class handball earlier this year and Saturday’s match-up has been well anticipated.

It didn’t disappoint. In the first game, McCarthy Jnr began explosively, storming into a commanding 10-1 lead. Things were looking ominous for Kennedy, but he dug in, and amazingly levelled at 11-11.

With the game so delicately-poised, the capacity crowd of 400-plus spectators were on tenterhooks, as Kennedy surged into a 12-16 lead. However, McCarthy’s temperament helped him recover, and he began to produce his own repertoire of stinging kill shots and streamlined passing shots, allied to some explosive serving, killing and retrieving the ball. He closed out the set 21-16.

In the second game, leading 12-7 McCarthy must have thought he was in the driving seat, but again Kennedy rallied to draw level at 12. Whether the exertions of that recovery began to tell is a moot point, but Kennedy faded thereafter and the Westmeath man, fired off six consecutive points to seal victory and secure back to back senior titles.

“I cherish the Softball (60x30) crown more than anything else,” McCarthy reflected.

“Eoin is one of the best large (60X30) court players ever and this year, he was back with a vengeance. I am just relieved to have got through, unscathed and that I managed to win without having to play a third tiebreaker.”

In the Minor Singles final, rising Limerick star, Pádraig Quish (Hospital) easily beat young Leitrim ace and newly-crowned Minor Doubles champion, Donal Wrynn (Fenagh), in a one-sided encounter, over two games (21-3, 21-9)

In the Intermediate Doubles final, Kilkenny duo, Ciaran Neary (Talbot’s Inch) and Timmy Clifford (St. Canice’s, Kilkenny City), accounted for Galway pairing Ollie Conway (Williamstown) and Martin

Mulkerrins (Moycullen).

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