1/8/17, WPH Press, Ballaghaderreen Co. Roscommon, Ireland- The first 40×20 major singles event kicked off on the first weekend of 2017, with top Irish stars Robbie McCarthy, Charlie Shanks, Martin Mulkerrins, Killian Carroll, Diarmaid Nash, Eoin Kennedy, and others seeking 2017’s first major title in Ballaghaderreen Co. Roscommon, Ireland. The John Gaffney Memorial was named in honor of the late John Gaffney, one of the great coaches in the history of Irish handball, responsible for teaching a number of the top Irish junior handball players in Ballaghaderreen. Adding to the prestige of the eighth edition of the Gaffney Memorial are the valuable GAA 40×20 Senior ranking points available to the top finishers, making the John Gaffney one of the few tournaments throughout the year with 40×20 ranking points.
“The depth and quality of the event speaks for itself,” stated current Irish WallBall champion Martin Mulkerrins. “The Gaffney is a highly regarded event which all of the players want to win.”
The top four seeds advanced to the Gaffney semifinals, with top-seeded Robbie McCarthy cruising past Tadhg O”Neill in two games and Killian Carroll outlasting Eoin Kennedy in two games in the upper bracket quarterfinals, and Martin Mulkerrins blitzing Owen McKenna in two games and Charly Shanks surviving match point in the tiebreaker to claim his first win against his nemesis Diarmaid Nash in a three-game thriller in the bottom bracket quarterfinals.
The upper bracket semifinal pitted current Race 4 Eight Simple Green U.S. Open Champion and 2014 Race 4 Eight Player’s Champion Robbie McCarthy against the current USHA Four Wall National Champion and current Race 4 Eight Player’s Champion Killian Carroll. The pair staged one of Ireland’s greatest 40×20 Senior matches in the 2014 All Ireland 40×20 Championships, with McCarthy winning 21-19 in the third game. This semifinal would be void of any of 2014’s drama, as Carroll methodically and systematically took apart McCarthy in two games to advance to the final.
The bottom bracket semifinal featured Irish #1 and two-time Race 4 Eight champion Charly Shanks facing the current Irish WallBall champion Martin Mulkerrins. Mulkerrins entered the 2017 Gaffney Memorial with very little preparation, having spent the last four months living in New Zealand. A refreshed Mulkerrins stunned Shanks in two quick games, outshooting and overpowering the former Race 4 Eight #1 to advance to the final.
Following their decisive semifinal victories, Carroll and Mulkerrins returned to the court just four hours later for the final. Mulkerrins raced to a 12-1 lead in game one of the final, riding the momentum and stellar play that saw him oust Shanks earlier in the day. Carroll worked his way into the match, eventually tying the game at 14 with a full arsenal of shot making and all-around handball skills. Carroll took control of the match at 15-14, scoring five straight points with just 14 swings and taking game one 21-14. Mulkerrins applied pressure in game two with tremendous defense, playing even with the Cork man midway through the second frame. Tied at 10, Carroll caught fire again, finding the bottom board six times in scoring 11 of the next 12 points to win the 2017 Gaffney Memorial.
“It felt great to get a second win (at the Gaffney,” stated Carroll after the match. “It’s a well-run tournament with a tremendous crowd watching and cheering. I’m overjoyed with the win, especially with all of the top names in the draw, except Brady, of course. Martin played extremely well for a person who had done very little training after being away for a couple of months, so I’m sure he’ll be back stronger than ever with a month or two of training.”
“Killian served an killed very well,” stated the 2017 Gaffney finalist Mulkerins. “Killian is a very deserving winner.”
“Just absolutely fantastic play from two supreme athletes,” stated tournament director Paddy Gaffney. “These guys really laid it all on the line all weekend and it was class handball to watch.”
Carroll def McCarthy 21-11, 21-15
Mulkerins def Shanks 21-6, 21-10
Carroll def Mulkerrins 21-14, 21-11
Thank you to GAA Handball for updates throughout the weekend.
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