Not long now until the 2012 World Championships at the CityWest but before then some great handball action this weekend to whet your appetite.
Tipperary’s Ger Coonan is hoping to close a gap of nearly three decades for the Premier County in the 2012 M Donnelly 60×30 Senior softball championships in the coming fortnight. Coonan produced a scintillating display to oust Meath’s Brian Carroll to progress in three games 21-15, 11-21, 21-15 in the quarter final to set up a semi-final clash with former champion, Dublin’s Eoin Kennedy this Saturday.
The Ballina clubman is now just two games away from such a coup and ending his County’s 29 year wait for the most coveted prize in the men’s traditional code as he bids to win the crown that Tony Ryan captured in 1983. He may be entering the court at Abbeylara on Saturday evening as the least experienced of the four players left in the series but Coonan has delivered in every grade up to this point.
He has accrued All-Ireland winning gold singles medals at Under 14, 16, 18, 21 and Intermediate level in the 60×30 arena. After his exhibition against former doubles winner, Carroll in the last four, he is sure to be a serious contender. “Playing Brian (Carroll) I knew I’d have to perform to my very best to have any chance of winning. Any time I’ve previously played against him, it has always been tough encounters but I was confident that if I played to my ability that I had a great chance. Thankfully on the night I played well and everything else fell into place,” said Coonan.
Looking ahead to this weekend’s match up with the most decorated senior softball player since the turn of the century, Coonan remains positive and aims to execute a winning performance on Saturday evening. “I’m just going to treat it like I have all my other games in the championship, go in with the right attitude and the right frame of mind. On any given day anything is possible. There’s no point letting the occasion get the better of you. Eoin (Kennedy) is undoubtedly the favourite. I just want to go in there and perform to the best of my ability. I’m under no illusions as to the challenge that’s in front of me. Eoin is a phenomenal player. He has set the standard for the past 10 years in the 60×30 game. It’s a huge challenge playing an opponent like Eoin.”
Kennedy collected his first senior championship senior 60×30 singles title in 2002 and has only tasted defeat twice in the last decade. That signifies the challenge in hand for the Tipperary man. Eight times champion, Kennedy easily accounted for the senior singles and doubles hardball winner in June, Limerick’s Seamus O’Carroll in two straight games 21-14, 21-6. The Dubliner will be determined to get back to the final and regain the trophy that he lost out twelve months ago when he was chasing an eighth consecutive gong.
For the first time in ten years, 32 year old Kennedy is ranked at two in the draw and the St. Brigid’s man is well aware of the threat that Coonan brings to halting his ambitions of winning title number 9. “I was delighted with my quarter-final win over Seamus. I went 9-1 down in the first game. It was a combination of a fast start from him and a few poor shot selections from myself, so I was really happy with the way I fought back to win 14 and 6,” said Kennedy.
“I will have to play better again against Ger as he is in top form and has already racked up some big wins in this year’s championship. Ger is a good server and also has the ability to execute killshots from all over the court. He is definitely fitter this year so he will take some stopping. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
The first senior semi-final on the programme brings together current champion, Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy and Mayo’s Dessie Keegan. The Mullingar man created history in 2011 when he took the honour for the first time for Westmeath and has continued to impress ever since. He scooped the USA Open 40×20 series in California last October before claiming the Irish Open 40×20 title in May and after his semi-final win over Meath’s Tom Sheridan 21-9, 21-9, few would bet against him from securing two in a row next month.
Connaught’s finest, Ballaghaderreen’s Dessie Keegan is an experienced campaigner at this level and his astonishing power combined with an accurate offensive attack makes him a very dangerous opponent for McCarthy. Keegan also will have taken a great boost from his quarter final victory over Limerick’s C J Fitzpatrick 21-15, 21-17 and last weekend’s win alongside Joe McCann against Kilkenny to advance to the doubles final.
Also in action on the same billing is Cork’s Catriona Casey who teams up with Aisling O’Keefe with the prospect of completing the double in the ladies softball cohort. Ballydesmond starlet, Casey, became the Rebel County’s first ladies winner of the senior singles bracket just seven days ago when she beat this weekend’s opponent Mayo’s Pauline Gallagher in the final.
However, Mayo’s Gallagher and Amy Corrigan are the current doubles holders and will be very difficult to dethrone but the talented Casey is sure to be in buoyant mood after her singles exploits. “Amy (Corrigan) and I paired up two years ago and we were delighted to reach a senior doubles final. We committed to training last year and most importantly worked on our communication so we were confident going into the final and were ecstatic to then beat Kerry who are an excellent team,” said Gallagher. “We have met Cork the last two years in the championship and always have a battle with them so we know that this final will be just as tough as the last and we need to be at our best again to retain our doubles title.”
There are also All Ireland Juvenile Finals down for decision at Abbeylara, St. Macartan’s College, Monaghan, Tuamgraney, Clare, and Crinkle, Offaly over the weekend as well as 24 All Ireland titles down for decision at 9 other venues in a comprehensive weekend of action for the sport.
Saturday 18th August 2012, in Abbeylara, Longford:
2pm: MOS SF1: Westmeath (Robbie McCarthy) v Mayo (Dessie Keegan)
3.15pm: MOS SF2: Tipperary (Ger Coonan) v Dublin (Eoin Kennedy)
4.30pm: LOD Final: Mayo (Pauline Gallagher & Amy Corrigan) v Cork (Aishling O’Keefe/Catriona Casey)