Cavan’s Paul Brady has unequivocally delivered a statement of intent for the huge handballing year that is 2012, following one of his most breathtaking displays in the 40×20 court on Saturday in St. Coman’s, Roscommon.
Brady entered his tenth consecutive All Ireland Senior Singles championship final, chasing an eighth successive triumph in the blue ribband event and faced what many believed was his most stern challenge in years. His opponent, Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy came into the final on the back of a twelve month unbeaten run with a list of hugely impressive titles to his credit in that period. McCarthy’s title wins had included the Irish 40×20 Nationals, All Ireland Senior Hardball and All Ireland Senior 60×30 Softball titles and the US Open crown back in November. His last defeat was a full twelve months ago at the hands of Brady in the Senior semi final stages of this same event.
The Cavan maestro had missed much of the same period of action due to injury but he has returned to the championship arena in the sort of form that everyone present in Roscommon could only look at in awe. On this occasion the tie began with both players exchanging brilliant early pass and kill shots and after 7 serves the score still stood at 1-0 in favour of McCarthy. It was then that Brady began to open up though with a level of power, speed and skill that few will have seen so meticulously combined together by one player in recent times.
Brady simply obliterated everything that the talented McCarthy hit at him. He soon powered his way into a 17-2 lead in the opener and it took some brilliant retrieves and killshots from McCarthy to see him reach a total of 6 aces before Brady closed out the opening game in just 26 minutes of play.
What Brady exhibited in the first, he went on to repeat in the second and on many occasions the capacity crowd looked on in awe at the sheer pace and power with which Brady unleashed his arsenal of offensive plays. Before long he had opened up a 15-0 lead in that second game and it took an outstanding ‘get’ and kill from McCarthy to merely grab his only score of the second game. Brady replied with 6 aces in a row and secure his ninth All Ireland Senior Singles crown on an incredible 21-6, 21-1 scoreline.
There is no doubt that Brady was up for this latest significant test like no other and he commented after his latest title win, “I had one objective here today and that was to retain my title. Many people felt I may have been coming to an end and Robbie came into the final in brilliant form and showed what he could do in the US Open. I felt I had to deliver something special to win and I am satisfied with what I did today but I know that there will be much tougher matches to come with Robbie in the future.”
For now, Brady can enjoy his latest title win which makes him unrivalled in the 40×20 court, with eight title wins in a row to his name. What is more remarkable though is that on this sort of form, the big question by all handball players and fans is how is his reign ever going to come to an end. What he delivered in Roscommon would suggest that it won’t be for quite a while!
Meanwhile, the GAA Handball All Ireland Ladies Open Doubles crown is back in Antrim for the first time since 2009, after Fiona Shannon and Sibeal Gallagher teamed up to reclaim the title and end Kerry’s dreams of making it three-in-a-row in the event.
The final at St. Coman’s proved to be another epic ladies decider with the Antrim pairing winning the first 21-17, before Kerry levelled the match with a 21-17 win in the second. The deciding game ebbed to and fro quite a bit and the Kingdom pairing of Maria Daly and Ashley Prendiville held leads at 6-0, 9-6, 12-9 and 16-13. However, Shannon and Galagher finished very strong and claimed the last 8 aces of the match and indeed the championship to win their eighth title 21-16.
The opening tie on the All Ireland finals programme saw Leitrim’s Donal Wrynn create his own piece of history following his eyecatching win in the GAA Handball All Ireland Minor Championship.
Wrynn had to come from behind against talented Wexford teenager, Galen Riordain, who will also be a minor again in 2013, after losing the first 21-9 and he went on to provide a super exhibition of retrieving and precision killshots to claim the title on a 21-13, 21-9 scoreline.
The complete finals programme in St. Coman’s will form the opening episode in the next series of The GAA Handball Show to be screened in May 2012 on TG4.