This is the busiest weekend of the handball calendar with the All-Ireland 40×20 Senior Singles finals. Here we preview the Senior Men’s and Ladies finals with two cracking ties in store. The games will be streamed live on GAA Handball’s Facebook page.
The Greatest Female Rivalry in Irish Sport right now
Martina McMahon (Limerick) v Caitriona Casey (Cork) Saturday 5:30pm
Old rivals Martina McMahon and Caitriona Casey face each other in what promises to be an absorbing encounter. The Limerick player won last year’s final in what was arguably the best game of handball played in 2018. The match ended 12-21 21-19 21-20 as McMahon won by a point after nearly two hours of handball. The left hander lost the opening game and trailed 10-1 in the second but came back to claim the title.
In 2017 Casey won the All-Ireland when she ruthlessly dispatched McMahon 21-5, 21-4 while in 2016 the Cork player came out on top in their All-Ireland semi-final before winning the final.
Casey won the 2018 She’s Ace title against the Limerick woman before the pair met once more in the 40×20 final at the World Championships in Minnesota last year. Team Ireland captain McMahon claimed victory in straight games before she teamed up with Antrim’s Aisling Reilly to beat the Cork pairing of Casey and Aishling O’Keefe 21-5 21-16. In the final of Irish Open – the biggest tournament outside of the All-Irelands – Casey led 13-5 in the first game (to 15) but McMahon’s aggressive style of play saw her claw it back and win.
McMahon has held the upper hand in recent times but her Ballydesmond opponent will be determined to atone for recent defeats. The pair have a contrasting approach to the game: Casey is methodical and rarely misses when in the front of the court while the Broadford player prefers to play a high risk attacking style. The Cork right hander was bitterly disappointed after losing the World Championship final and trained hard to make amends. She trained in alleys in the capital while she advanced to the final of the men’s Senior Singles in the Dublin county championships, an unprecedented feat for a female.
Both players have advanced with ease to the final with neither dropping a game. McMahon has dominated this rivalry in the past year but the number two seed will be desperate to avenge her All-Ireland and World Championship losses. This encounter promises to be another chapter in the biggest rivalry in handball and will showcase the best that women’s handball has to offer.
Prediction: McMahon to win in a tie breaker.
Repeat or Revenge
After the Ladies’ final, Diarmuid Nash will face Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy in what promises to be another exiting encounter. This is a repeat of the 2014 final which McCarthy won 21-16 21-5 in what was the first of three All Ireland 40×20 titles in a row for the Mullingar man. The Clare player has consistently reached the latter stages of the All-Irelands, progressing to the semi finals in 2015 and 2018 while he lost in the quarter finals in 2017.
The pair have won gold medals as a doubles pairing in the last two 40×20 World Championships, winning the 2015 World Championships in Calgary, Canada and the 2018 hosting in Minnesota, USA.
McCarthy is the reigning 60×30 All-Ireland champion and has won that event seven times but he has proven to be an excellent 40×20 player also. He won the Irish Nationals in February defeating Nash in the final.
The Clare player has enjoyed an excellent season, winning the John Gaffney Memorial tournament and the Golden Gloves while reaching the Moycullen Open and Irish Nationals finals.
The Tuamgraney man was defeated in the final of the Irish Nationals last month by McCarthy in an epic game that went to a tiebreak. The final game ended 11-9 in an exciting contest. The most impressive part of the victory was the three time 40×20 champion’s stamina as he defeated Galway’s Martin Mulkerrins in a marathon semi final before beating his Clare opponent shortly afterwards.
Nash himself came from a match point down to defeat fellow Clare man Colin Crehan 13-15 15-3 11-10. Both of the player’s semi finals and their final lasted over an hour and a half which shows that fitness should not be an issue in their All-Ireland final.
Nash has not dropped a game en route to the final and looked very impressive in defeating Kilkenny’s Patrick Funchin 21-9 21-13. McCarthy beat reigning champion Martin Mulkerrins 21-19 20-21 21-6 in a pulsating encounter. The Mullingar man lead 20-18 in the second game before his Galway opponent brought the game to a tiebreaker. McCarthy remained composed however and booked his place in an All-Ireland final.
This promises to be a close encounter as both players are patient and willing to wait for the right opportunities. Nash has been the most consistent player this season while his opponent has struck form at the right time. It is a tough game to call but after his near misses in previous year’s, I am predicting a victory for the Munster man.
Prediction: Nash to win in a tiebreak.
Student Journalist with a big interest in GAA and all sports. Columnist for GAA Wrap.