Eoin Kennedy pushed Robbie McCarthy strongly, but it wasn’t enough as the Westmeath ace retained his MyClubShop.ie All-Ireland 60×30 Senior Singles title at Croke Park on Saturday.
McCarthy claimed his seventh title in this competition, maintaining his composure to pull off a 21-19, 21-14 win over the St. Brigids clubman.
The 30-year old began strongly leading 9-4, before Kennedy mounted a strong challenge with some superb kills to pull it back to a two-point margin, before a series of rallies saw McCarthy move 13-7 clear.
Kennedy fought back to move within a single ace at 12-13 and could have levelled but missing a flat roll by the narrowest of margins.
McCarthy drew strength from Kennedy’s near miss and won a succession of points to get to game ball leading 20-12.
But Kennedy wasn’t to give and found some of the form which saw him claim All-Ireland silverware in the past.
The 39-year old held off four game-balls to edge his way back to 19 with some shots straight out of a highlight reel, including a couple of flat roll-outs.
With the crowd holding its collective breath he delivered a high lob serve which McCarthy returned into deep court.
Kennedy played a passing shot into the back left hand which almost died in the corner.
However, McCarthy astonishly picked it low off the back wall and directed the ball with perfect precision to roll it out in the right corner.
Serving again at 20, he and Kennedy fought out what was to prove the rally of the match. With Kennedy in seeming control he sent McCarthy on a tour of the court, forcing him to make outstanding retrievals.
Twice in succession Kennedy passed McCarthy, only to have the ball hit low down on the sidewall and bounce out allowing McCarthy sufficient time to get back to retrieve.
McCarthy’s defensive qualities were to the fore as his speed around the court kept the ball alive until Kennedy was forced into a quick reaction overhand which hit too high on the front wall allowing McCarthy to drive the ball down the right for the winning point.
As Kennedy held his head in his hands McCarthy raised his arms into the air with relief at taking the game 21-19.
After a five minute break the second game commenced and was nip and tuck until 7-8.
Kennedy’s monumental fightback in the first had however taken some of the sting out of his play and while he still continued to be aggressive going for kills at every opportunity, McCarthy was now more relaxed and playing some superb soft kill shots into his favourite right corner. Again Kennedy came back from behind but could not deny McCarthy his final victory on a score line of 21-19, 21-14.
Overall the match was a superb example of handball at its very best, with terrific kills, fantastic retrieving, tremendous athleticism and fighting qualities shown by both players.
St Brigids Kennedy must now quickly re-group as he and his partner Carl Browne are scheduled to play Galway in the quarter final of the Senior Doubles next weekend in Crinkle, Offaly.
The doubles provides Kennedy with his last opportunity in 2018 to add to his All-Ireland Senior gold medal count.