ST BRIGID’S Dublin’s Eoin Kennedy rolled back the years on an emotional night at Handball HQ as he captured his tenth Myclubshop.ie Senior Singles title in what surely must rank as one of, if not his sweetest ever victory.
The 40-year-old legend rolled back the years with a sensational performance to defeat the five in-a-row chasing Robbie McCarthy 21-20, 21-18 to win his 10th Singles All-Ireland, and the last to be played in the historic Croke Park HC.
It was an enthralling game that had the capacity crowd on the edge of their seats throughout. Buoyed on by a raucous home crowd, Kennedy was in inspired form throughout in what was one of the greatest finals seen in the old centre and a fitting way to close out the end of an era.
As far back as 2002, at the tender age of 23 he won his first against the legendary Michael (Ducksy) Walsh, after losing to Walsh in the previous year’s final.
He has competed in every final since, apart from 2003 and won seven in a row between 2004-2010 by beating contenders such as Kilkenny’s Walsh, Meath’s Tom Sheridan, Wexford’s Barry Goff and Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy over that period.
The young pretender, McCarthy finally got the better of him in 2011 and went on to win again in 2012 and 2013 until Kennedy, at the age of 35, pulled out an outstanding win over three games in 2014 to capture his ninth title.
This year, McCarthy was going for his five in a row and was the hot favourite going into the final.
The veteran Kennedy was giving almost 9 years to his younger opponent and it was clear that if he was to pull off an upset win that he would have to win the first game. He also would have to cut down on the length of the rallies by going for his kills at every opportunity against the younger man.
In the first game, the score was level several times before Kennedy eked out a 14-8 lead only for McCarthy to storm back, levelleing at 18 each. Kennedy, though, prevailed 21-20.
The second game saw McCarthy make the pace, building a 7-2 advantage. The increasing pressure on McCarthy was showing through his frustration at not being able to dominate the exchanges and at Kennedy’s unremitting efforts.
It wasn’t until 14 all however that Kennedy got back on even terms. The scores were again tied at 17 and then 18 all when Kennedy regained the serve.
It was now 19-18 to Kennedy. Another deep serve led to a frantic rally which Kennedy won with a powerful passing shot. He was now serving at 20-18 for the match. Again a deep overhand serve which McCarthy returned high around the court. Kennedy cut the ball off and drove the ball down the right hand glass wall.
The crowd roared as the ball looked un-gettable. But McCarthy’s unbelievable speed enabled him to make a return high off the left wall and crossing ackwardly across the alley. Kennedy gathered himself for a final effort and drove the ball low down the right hand side, giving McCarthy this time no chance.
Kennedy’s relief and delight at winning this thrilling contest 21-20, 21-18 was evident as he raised both arms in the air, let out a primal roar and dropped to his back on the ground.