All-Ireland senior champions Charly Shanks (Armagh) and Catriona Casey (Cork) collected the respective Player of the Year awards at the GAA Handball All-Stars in Croke Park.
Clann Eireann, Lurgan clubman Shanks produced undoubtedly the most remarkable storyline of the handball year in 2017 when, at the sixth time of asking, he was eventually crowned All-Ireland 40x20 Senior Singles champion with an emphatic final win against defending champ Robbie McCarthy of Westmeath.
Having lost three finals to Paul Brady of Cavan and two to McCarthy — one of which after he agonisingly blew a 20-13 third game lead — many felt that Shanks’s chance of landing the biggest prize in Irish 40x20 handball had all but disappeared.
However, he silenced his doubters with a majestic display which has given the 33-year-old a new lease of life.
“I suppose I didn’t realise how much weight was on my shoulders,” said the stylish right-hander, who admitted that he would have hung up his gloves had he lost another decider.
“When you are playing as a kid, winning an All-Ireland senior title in the pinnacle. When I finally got that, it was a weight off my shoulders and I could enjoy my handball again.”
Casey, meanwhile, dominated both 40x20 and 60x30 handball in 2017 and has started the new year off in fine style too, cruising to a comprehensive win in the recent She’s Ace tournament, a female-only event hosted in Mayo each January.
Both players will be among the favourites to land a first world Open Singles title at the World Championships in Minneapolis this August.
The full list of winners:
Charly Shanks, Armagh (Male Player of the Year), Catriona Casey, Cork (Female Player of the Year), Tadhg O’Neill, Cork (Young Male), Fiona Tully, Roscommon (Young Female), Moycullen, Galway (Club of the Year), Joe O’Connell, Galway (Administrator of the Year), Gavin Buggy, Wexford (Volunteer of the Year), Michelle Warren, Tyrone (Clubperson of the Year), Tim Healy, Seamus O Fatharta, Joe Masterson, Billy Silcock (Cork, Galway, Offaly, Antrim respectively, Hall of Fame inductees).
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