Irish handball weekend review

Updated: February 5, 2012

A new name has been added to the list of senior champions in Munster after Limerick’s Seamus O’Carroll toppled one of the strongest senior campaigns in the most southerly province.

O’ Carroll, who represented his county in all three GAA codes in 2011 secured his first Munster 40×20 victory at senior level without dropping a game as he ousted Cork’s Colm Jordan 21-18, 21-9 in the quarters before accounting for Kerry’s Dominic Lynch 21-13, 21-14. The deciding match up brought O’Carroll together with Ireland’s most promising junior talent, Mallow’s Killian Carroll.

The Cork star who recently claimed his third USHA Junior National gong in Tucson in December had also reached the final of the third annual John Gaffney senior event in mid-January. That didn’t deter the Cappagh club man whose intense winter training programme paid dividends at the conclusion of his Munster crusade.

The Cork teenager dominated the early proceedings and jumped into a 7-1 lead but O’Carroll then took 20 of the next 29 points to win the opening game 21-16. After the restart, the Limerick man continued to utilise his power and accurate offensive attack to good effect which ensured his first Munster 40×20 senior championship, winning game two 21-10.

“In the final I was up against Killian Carroll of Cork and this guy is definitely one to watch out for in the future. He’s a great athlete and a brilliant player for his age as has been proven from his recent results in the states at the US Juniors, the Ballaghaderreen tournament and last weekend’s Munster Championship,” said O’Carroll.

“In the first game I started very slow and was 7-1 down. I knew I just had to stay in touch at the start because I knew as the game went on that my power and the fitness from the winter training with the Limerick Senior Footballers would kick in. I won a tough first game 21-16 and in the second game I got more into my rhythm and got my serving going and that along with my power and kill shots won out 21-10.”

O’Carroll tasted senior glory in 2011 in the senior hardball code when he reached the singles and doubles finals but faltered to the hands of Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy and Dublin respectively. He is relishing the upcoming 40×20 senior series but believes that no one will stop Cavan’s Paul Brady from bagging his eighth successive senior GAA Handball crown.

“I was over the moon when the final ended and especially after last year’s disappointment I wanted to come back better this year and win my 1st senior singles title. I have won the Munster senior doubles this past two years and it was nice to finally get that single’s accolade.”

“This is my first senior Munster title and hopefully it’s not the last. It’s probably been my main aim since I grew up watching the likes of Tony Healy, John Herlihy and Dominick Lynch competing for the title. It’s really nice because my coach Donal Hayes has been coaching me from day one and to see the pride he had in me winning was special. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I win my 1st All-Ireland singles title.”

“Looking forward I feel confident heading into the All-Ireland Championship and I think anyone outside of Paul Brady is beatable on the day and there seems to be no stopping that man yet. I suppose there are so many good players in the championship at the moment. It looks to be more and more exciting each year and harder and harder to win any game. The main achievement outside of the Munster Singles title was the ranking points on offer so hopefully I may get a kinder draw now and hopefully give this year’s championship a good rattle.”

All four senior provincial championships are very competitive at present with Munster now looking like one of the most hotly contested. In recent seasons, it was dominated by the former four times Irish senior champion, Cork’s Tony Healy but that has changed dramatically with an impressive array of talented young players now in the mix.

“There’s no such thing as an easy game in Munster any more. It’s probably one of the youngest provinces as well and I think if you asked anyone at the start of the championship who would win it, I think everyone would have picked someone different. Some of the country’s top young players are in Munster such as CJ Fitzpatrick, Diarmuid Nash, Killian Carroll and Fergal Collins but you then have guys such as Dominick Lynch, Ger Coonan, Colm Jordan and Brendan Fleming who are very difficult opponents on any given day. It’s exciting times in Munster and hopefully in the next few years the next senior champion will hail from probably the strongest and most keenly contested province.”

In Ulster last weekend, Cavan’s Brady controlled his final opponent, Antrim’s Ricky McCann 21-7, 21-6. This was the current world champion’s first outing in singles competitive action since his final win last April.

In Connaught, Mayo’s Joe McCann took the honours with victories over Roscommon’s Chris Doolin and Galway’s Martin Mulkerrins before beating fellow Ballaghaderreen club man, Stephen Cooney in the final 21-3, 21-15.
In Leinster, the 2011 senior softball champion, Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy is favourite to prevail and he is recognised as the key challenger to Brady’s throne in the coming months.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in Atlanta last weekend, Armagh’s Charlie Shanks, now based in New York, continued his rise in the USA standings after reaching the semi-final with wins over Emmett Peixoto (Boston, MA) and nine times USA Open winner, David Chapman (Weldon Spring, MO). The 2010 and 2011 40×20 senior runner up, then fell short against California’s Naty Alvarado in the last four but Shanks is happy with his progress since his move to the States last September.

“I’m currently ranked 6th and I’m gradually moving up the seeding with the more events I attend. I had good wins over Peixoto and Chapman, but then I had to play Alvarado who had a handy enough run for him. My arms were too sore and he was too fresh for me on the day. That’s the first time I’ve beat those two guys at this level, so it was a good weekend on that front. I’m sitting 4th in the race for eight standings with two events left before the showdown in Seattle in May. I’m starting to hit some form again so I’m looking forward to Salt Lake City in two weeks.”

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