Cavan, Ireland, WPH Press, 3/17/18– Defending 40×20 All Ireland champion and WR48 #1 Catriona Casey met WR48 #2 Martina McMahon for the 2017 All Ireland 40×20 Ladies final, with the two best women’s players on the planet battling for Ireland’s most prestigious title and the honor of representing Ireland at the World Handball Championships in August. On the men’s side, it was defending champion and Irish #1 Charly Shanks facing first-time All Ireland finalist Martin Mulkerrins with a spot on the Irish World Championship team also at stake.
Ladies Final: Casey vs. McMahon
Casey cruised in game one of the highly anticipated final, using her all-around game to nullify McMahon’s stylish attack. Casey never allowed McMahon to threaten, taking the game 21-12.
The match appeared to be in Casey’s grasp 11 points into game two, with Casey leading 10-1. McMahon rattled off three ace serves and a number of kills to even the score at 11, applying scoreboard pressure to the world’s #1 for the first time in the match. The pair went back and forth to 17-all, where McMahon barely scooped a ball off the back wall for a fortunate kill. McMahon burst into a huge smile, followed by a two-handed shooting celebration. The pageantry appeared to disrupt McMahon’s stoic nature, as Casey scored two consecutive points to stand at 19-17, just two points from the title. Casey appeared reluctant to take her chances on the doorstep of the championship, opting for two-wall passes to the left and ceiling shots rather than shooting for the bottom board, opening the door for McMahon. McMahon seized the opportunity, scoring the final four points of the game to force a decider.
Very little separated the two giants of women’s handball in the final, as both appeared to gain control at various points in the 48-minute final frame. The pair found themselves tied at 17 in game three, just as they had been in game two. Trading points as they had throughout the tense and dramatic third frame, McMahon reached match point first at 20-19. A setup at the short line with McMahon’s right hand appeared to the opportunity she needed to clinch the title, as McMahon hit the shot four inches high to the left side. Casey stayed with the low-bouncing ball, just catching the ball before the second bounce and hitting a re-kill with her left to stay alive. Casey scored her 20th point on a controversial rally in which both players appeared to be screened on multiple occasions during the 24-shot exchange. McMahon argued to no avail and called a timeout to regroup. Following the timeout, Casey served short and lobbed her second serve to the left at 20-all, never gaining the upper hand in the rally and losing it on the 11th shot. McMahon served for the match for the second time at 20-all and played aggressively throughout the seven shot rally, ultimately ending the match and winning the title with a 32-foot flat kill with her trademark left.
“Hard luck to Catriona,” stated an ecstatic McMahon after the match. “We’ve developed a real rivalry, I suppose. This one means an awful lot to me. I have no doubt we’ll meet against at the Worlds in August.”
“I’ve been around the All Ireland Championships for a long time and I’ve never seen one this exciting,” stated GAA broadcast analyst Gavin Buggy.
Final: McMahon def Casey 12-21, 21-19, 21-20
Men’s Final: Shanks vs. Mulkerrins
First-time All Ireland challenger Martin Mulkerrins fell behind 0-3 in Shanks’ first service inning in the first game of the final but took control from there, applying pressure with blistering power and kills with both hands to score the next 17 points and closing out the first game, 21-7.
Mulkerrins withstood an early Shanks charge in game two, breaking a 6-all tie to score the next six points to stand just nine points from the biggest title of his career. Mulkerrins appeared to be in the zone, never changing his expression or body language en route to a 14-7 lead. Mulkerrins opened up his full offensive arsenal, killing balls off the back wall, off the bounce, and blasting two-wall passes out of Shanks’ reach. Mulkerrins was undaunted by the finish line, maintaining his late second game advantage and sealing the victory, 21-11.
Final: Mulkerrins def Shanks 21-7, 21-11
Photos courtesy of GAA Handball
WPH Senior Writer