Co. Mayo, Ireland, WPH Press, 1/27/17- GAA Handball presented “She’s Aces,” the first 40×20 Women’s Ranking event of 2017 on the third weekend in January in Co. Mayo, Ireland, featuring WR48 #1 and GAA #1 Catriona Casey, WR48 #3 and GAA #3 Martina McMahon, and WR48 #7 and GAA #4 Ciana Ni Churraoin
The three superstars were joined by seven of Ireland’s top women’s stars in a 10-woman round robin format. The field of 10 was divided into two round robin groups, with each of the ladies playing five matches throughout the two-day event.
Casey cruised to the final in Group A with an undefeated record, while McMahon and Ni Churraoin met in Group B’s final match to determine who would advance to face Casey in the final. The left-handed Irish #3 was too strong for CNC in Mayo, as McMahon systematically vanquished Ni Churraoin in a flawless exhibition of power and offensive handball.
“I played Ciana last April in the Irish Nationals,” stated McMahon. “We were always rivals on the court growing up, but the win that day (in April) gave me the confidence to push on. I was happy to get over the line on this occasion also.”
McMahon was in search of her first major 40×20 in Ireland in the “She’s Aces” final, while Casey was aiming to continue her quest of worldwide handball domination. McMahon earned her first tournament victory against Casey in the final of the GAA 60×30 All Ireland Championships in September, but Casey bounced back to defeat McMahon in two spectacular games in the semifinals of the Simple Green U.S. Open in October.
McMahon continued her spectacular play from round robin play in the first game of the final, defeating the WR48 #1 with a quick start and percentage handball.
“I’m used to playing games to 21, which allows you more time to settle into the game,” stated McMahon in referring to the 15-point game finals format. “Because the final was two 15’s and a tie-breaker to 11, I said to myself I have to play my best from the beginning if I’m ever going to win. At 14, I heard the referee say “game ball” and it was then I realized, ‘oh my God could I actually take this game.’ Thankfully I did, but Catriona made me earn every ace. Nothing came easy.”
Casey made adjustments in game two, relying on her poise and unmatched ability to make adjustments to even the match at one game apiece.
“The second game was similar to my 60×30 performance (against Catriona),” stated McMahon. “It was down to my own poor shot choice. I shied away for about five-minutes, I fell asleep so to speak, and Catriona took advantage of that. Thankfully, I woke up again, took a time out and came back into the end of the game with how I closed out the first. Thankfully, I regained the momentum I had in the first game before Catriona forced the tiebreaker. At that late stage, Catriona had too much of a lead for me to claw it back.”
McMahon trusted her nerve and 60×30 All Ireland tiebreaker victory against Casey to refocus after losing game two. “My 60×30 (against Catriona) scenario was the first thing I thought of as I walked out of the court after losing the second game,” stated McMahon. “I said I did it once, why not try to do it again, but I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. The main thing with tiebreakers is to keep your nerve.”
McMahon’s nerve and shot making carried her to a 10-5 tiebreaker lead, just one swing from the title. “At 10-5, Catriona got me out and made three aces to force it 10-8. For some strange reason I didn’t feel any nerves, I was happy with how I was playing and if it was to be, it would be. However, when you’re one ace away from beating the number one, I must admit victory smells sweet! But I can only say that now! When I was inside the four walls and serving for the second time at 10, I didn’t visualize winning. I’ve watched numerous games whereby a player on top gets beaten 11-10. When you’re in that situation, you just have to make sure you don’t get impatient and choose the wrong shot and (I think) that’s what I did! I played safe until my preferred shot was on!”
McMahon clinched the “She’s Aces” 11-8 in the tiebreaker and instantly announced the newest rivalry in 4-Wall women’s handball. Expect to see these two Irish superstars in many more finals on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean in the next decade.
For more on the “She’s Aces” and news from GAA Handball, visit the GAA at https://www.gaahandball.ie/
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