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Tue 11-Sep-2007 15:51
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Dublin and Mayo in rematch
A repeat of the 2005 M DONNELLY All-Ireland Senior Doubles final awaits the handball fraternity next Saturday when Dublin take on Mayo at Croke Park.
A late change in the Mayo personnel sees Swinford’s Kevin Geraghty replace Ballaghaderreen’s Joe McCann, who is recovering from a collapsed lung at St James Hospital. McCann received a blow during last weekend’s Mayo SFC semi-final, where he lined out at full back as his side were defeated by Ballina Stephenites. It is unclear however, at this stage, whether this led to the lung collapse and doctors have indicated that the two may be unrelated.
His replacement, Geraghty is an accomplished handballer and defeated Kilkenny legend, Michael ‘Ducksy’ Walsh, in the Master’s Hardball Final earlier this year, but stepping into McCann’s shoes will be no easy task.
Representing Dublin in the other corner, are reigning champions, Egin Jensen and Eoin Kennedy. The Dublin duo booked their final place after an epic two-hour semi-final tussle against Wexford’s Gavin Buggy and Tommy Hynes three weeks ago, and are now aiming for a third consecutive title at handball headquarters.
Ballaghaderreen’s Joe McCann and Dessie Keegan were forced to pull out all the stops in the early exchanges of their semi-final against Meath’s Walter O’Connor and Tom Sheridan, but ran out comfortable winners in the end. Keegan is a former Vodafone All-Star winner and last year, along with his direct opponent next Saturday, Kennedy, took part in the 1st One Wall Italian Championships and collected top honours. Keegan is also a noted Pelota handball player and has played in the Basque Country at a number of international tournaments.
Looking to next weekend’s final, the hard-hitter described his preparation for this year’s 60x30 championship. “In August 2006, I had to make a decision as to whether I was going to be a ‘nearly man’ or actually go and do something in handball,” said Keegan. The Ballaghaderreen club man decided to pay a visit to Connacht rugby coach, Kevin Cradock and following a rigorous fitness test Keegan was told the ability was there, but he was in poor physical condition. He then began a training programme; this resulted in the handball powerhouse running laps of his local GAA pitch while other top Irish competitors were in action across the Atlantic in Edmonton, Canada, at the World Championships.
“This year, I set a target of winning the 60x30 doubles final, and myself and Joe have worked really hard over the last few months to get where we are,” said Keegan. “I’m really upset for Joe because I know how much he wanted this but I have to be selfish now and not carry baggage into the alley.
The Mayo man knows what he needs to do to make his dream a reality.
“Kevin is fine player and I’ll have to be on top of my game, but the target is still there - to go and win this final.” Keegan then mused that a wounded animal is a dangerous one and he is ready for the battle.
One of the cogs in the Dublin pairing awaiting the battle with the ‘Ballagh’ man is Dublin’s Egin Jensen, who has played alongside Kennedy in the last two finals. He is determined that this year, he and Eoin will add another title to their collection.
“It’s great to be another final,” said Jensen. “We had a tough game against Wexford in the semi and we expect this one will be even tougher.”
Jensen, a native of Meath, who has been playing doubles for some years in the capital, is no stranger to success and last year collected a world doubles title with none other than Ducksy Walsh. Now he is ready for more silverware.
“We’re confident that we will win – you have to be, but we’re really looking forward to it and it’s going to be some contest,” said Jensen.
Should the Dublin pair take honours, Eoin Kennedy will join Wexford’s John Ryan (RIP) as the second only player to take the ‘Big-Alley Grand Slam’. Ryan collected Senior 60x30 Singles and Doubles titles in 1957, along with double hardball honours. Next Sunday, Kennedy could emulate this feat having already taken singles and doubles hardball honours for 2007 and the Senior Singles Softball title last weekend after a win over Kilkenny handball legend, Michael ‘Ducksy’ Walsh. A win over Mayo on Saturday next would mark yet another historic milestone in Kennedy’s illustrious career.
M DONNELLY 60x30 All-Ireland Finals
Irish Handball Centre, Croke Park, 15th September 2007, 3pm
Minor Doubles: Ciarán Neary and Keith Bourke (Kilkenny)
CJ Fitzpatrick and Seamus O’Carroll (Limerick)
Intermediate Singles: Paul Mullins (Tipperary) v Ollie Cassidy (Mayo)
Senior Doubles: Eoin Kennedy and Egin Jensen (Dublin)
Dessie Keegan and Kevin Geraghty (Mayo)
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