Eoin Kennedy lines up a shot. Picture: Tommy Grealy

ST BRIGID’S Eoin Kennedy’s quest for an elusive 10th All-Ireland Senior Singles 60×30 softball title continues as he came up short against Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy in Saturday’s final, played in the famous Croke Park handball arena.
Kennedy’s first appearance in the senior singles final was against the legendary Michael “Ducksy” Walsh as far back as 2001.
On that occasion, he lost in the third game. He got his revenge the following year when he beat Walsh in two straight games to begin his own dominance in the “big court”, winning a total of nine singles titles.
Apart from 2003 Kennedy has competed in every final since 2001 with this year his 16th final appearence. It is a tribute to his skill level, fitness and competitiveness that he continues to excel at the highest level of the game.
From the first rally last Saturday, it was clear that Kennedy had a different game plan to the usual as, to the delight of the large Dublin contingent, he was going for his kill shots on every opportunity.
Using a low serve down the right wall, he cut short the rallies with some superb shots to quickly gain a 5-0 lead. McCarthy used all his superb speed and fitness to run down balls which would have beaten any other player and with his own variety of soft corner kills and well placed overhands he came back to lead 6-5.
Again, Kennedy took the initiative to lead 9-6 and then 13-10. A controversial referee’s call which went against Kennedy seemed to break his momentum and McCarthy used the opportunity to score successive points to lead 17-13.
Despite Kennedy’s best efforts McCarthy went on to win the game 21-16. As in so many of their clashes, winning the first game proved vital as it allowed McCarthy to relax and in the second he showed his complete command of the court with superb retrieving, shot placement and corner killing. Despite Kennedy’s best efforts McCarthy ran the second game out 21-9.
Overall the standard of play and the commitment shown by each player were worthy of the occasion which was to decide the winner of the new Ducksy Walsh Cup.
Sponsored by the Walsh family to recognise Ducksy’s outstanding record in handball, both nationally and internationally, this cup will always remind the Irish public of his handball genius, sadly brought to a conclusion by his untimely death during 2016 at the age of 50.
Folllowing the presentation of the silver medal to St Brigid’s Kennedy, and the gold medal and Walsh Cup to McCarthy, a video tribute to Walsh was shown during which St Brigid’s Eoin Kennedy and Kilkenny’s DJ Carey paid tribute to his memory.
After his efforts on Saturday, Kennedy still has the doubles to look forward to.
Together with his clubmate Carl Browne he plays the quarter finals of the Senior Doubles next Saturday at Garyhill in Carlow against the Wexford pairing of Gavin Buggy and Daniel Kavanagh.

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