Kennedy back at the top of Irish handball

by Gazette Reporter

EOIN Kennedy added yet another trophy to his cabinet by winning the 2017 60×30 handball national singles title with a win over Wexford’s Gavin Buggy – the first time he has won this particular title.
The St Brigid’s legend did so despite going through the pain barrier, adding to the remarkable achievement.
He picked up an injury just five minutes into the final when he over-arched, reacting to a bad bounce off the bottom of the sidewall and he went into spasm.
He took an injury time-out to stretch and massage his back in an attempt to return to court. Over the next few points, he gradually regained confidence in his movement and built a 9-3 lead. Buggy fought back to 8-11 before Kennedy closed out the first 15-9.
In the second game Kennedy was back to his best, controlling the rallies through excellent serving and maintaining his front court positioning. Through a combination of hard, driving passing shots and soft corner kills he ran out winner of the second game 15-3.
Kennedy had reached the final after a comfortable 15-3, 15-7 win over Offaly’s David Hope, while local favourite Buggy reached the decider when he came out on top of a pulsating encounter with Meath man Brian Carroll. Buggy won the first game but Carroll responded well and took the second to force a tie-breaker that the latter eventually won after an impressive fight back.
38-year-old Kennedy faced Wicklow’s Michael Gregan in a difficult first round match that saw the Dubliner get off to a 15-9, 15-6 winning start. He made light work of his second round tie against Paudi Quish from Limerick later on that day, winning 15-9, 15-4.
Kennedy showed his experience through precision serving and his ability to play kill or passing shots, often sending his younger opponent on a tour of the court before finishing off the point.
Played over a single weekend, the nationals requires skill, concentration and stamina as the games are to 15 aces instead of the usual 21 and four rounds have to be successully negotiated to come out the winner.
With the shorter game format, upsets are more likely and it is vital that players get up to speed very quickly if they are to succeed.
The need to win four matches in two days places a premium on stamina and the ability to quickly recover from the exertions of the previous round.
All this shows just why it was an impressive win for Kennedy and his return to winning ways sets him up nicely for the forthcoming All-Ireland championships, where he will be attempting to turn back the years to win yet another Celtic Cross.

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