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GAA Handball Ireland Official Press Release

April 4th, 2012

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Superwomen collide for Gold


A clash of the titans in the Irish ladies game will take centre stage this weekend when senior champion, Kerry’s Maria Daly sets out to defend her title against current World and Irish Nationals champion, Antrim’s Fiona Shannon.


When the season swung into action in early February, both finalists would have been favourites to prevail in what was probably the most competitive female series since the ladies senior championship launched.


Defending champion, Daly came through a stern test in her semi-final victory last Saturday in Cappagh, Limerick, when she ousted Roscommon’s Marianna Rushe in two closely fought games, winning 21-15, 21-18. “I was delighted to get through my semi-final as it’s always difficult to play Marianna. It was a good tough game so I’m happy with how I played and I want to keep improving my game,” said the Ballymacelligott club star.


Daly is chasing her third successive title which is all the more impressive considering the present climate in the domestic ladies cohort. “I’m not thinking about 3 in a row. I just try to get as far as I can and play as well as I can to keep getting through. There was a lot of strong competition this year so I’m happy to be back in the final.”


Daly got the better of this weekend’s opponent at the semi-final phase in 2011 but Shannon got reprisal at the Irish Nationals last April. “Fiona is very strong and playing well at the moment so it will be tough fast match. She beat me in the Irish nationals last year so I will just go out and concentrate on this game. If I play as good as I can I should do well.”


33 year old Shannon, who has bagged eight GAA Handball senior singles championships and has three world titles safely tucked away, amazingly continues to have the desire and hunger for further glory. She scooped her first world singles crown in Dublin in 2003 and has since defended her title in Canada in 2006 before successfully retaining the throne for a second time in Portland in 2009.

She has progressed at the expense of gifted Ulster players, Down’s Lorraine Havern 21-14, 21-12 in the quarters and fellow St. Paul’s player, Aisling Reilly in a semi-final tiebreak 21-11.


Shannon has remained injury free and maintained her unparalleled fitness levels for 2012 when she will also be hoping to add a fourth senior world medal in Dublin this October. “For me, the semi-final win was a bit disappointing as I didn’t play the way I can. My game just wasn’t flowing. On the positive side, I never gave up and I always knew that if I kept running and positioned my shots better to make Aisling move more, that I had a chance. In that respect it was a valuable win especially seeing that I was playing catch up in every game,” said Shannon.


Alongside her sister, Sibeal Gallagher, Shannon has already got one over Daly this season when she secured the doubles bracket a fortnight back against Kerry’s Daly and Ashley Prendiville in a thrilling nail-biting encounter in Roscommon, 21-17, 17-21, 21-16. Like this weekend’s fixture, Kerry were pursuing a three in a row.


Looking ahead to a second battle with Daly in as many weeks, the experienced Saffron campaigner knows only too well what to expect from the champion. “Maria has got to be one of my toughest opponents and being number 1 and the reigning all Ireland champion, she is definitely a force to be reckoned with. My games against her are always tough as she has two amazing hands. She defeated me last year in the semi-finals but I got revenge in the Irish and US nationals later in the year.


A victory for Shannon this weekend would leave her in a very elitist position that no other female on the planet can lay claim to. A win would mean she’d hold all the major trophies on offer in the 40×20 arena which includes the World, USA and Irish titles in both singles and doubles. “I feel I have prepared as best as I can. The training is done, the fitness is there and I just have to bring it on the day.”



Carroll relishing underdog tag


Twelve months later and the top two teams in the country, Meath and Cavan will resume battle for the biggest doubles prize in the domestic game.


Cavan’s Paul Brady has already retained his 40×20 senior singles title last weekend ensuring his eighth consecutive win when he proved sensational, dominating Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy. He, alongside the gifted right sided specialist, Kingscourt’s Michael Finnegan are favourites to land an eighth GAA Handball doubles honour. They displayed the sort of double’s prowess on occasion in their semi-final win that has helped them reach the pinnacle on the world stage.


The current US Open doubles winners took three games to advance over Wexford’s Barry Goff and Colin Keeling 21-12, 19-21, 21-13 to set up a repeat of twelve months ago. Such reading would give little hope for Meath to curb the calibre of the Breffni paring but in Tom Sheridan and Brian Carroll, the Kells club men are in with a fighting chance.


Sheridan and Carroll edged out 2009 champs, Mayo’s Dessie Keegan and Joe McCann 21-14, 21-20 in their semi-final triumph and are looking as focussed as ever. “We were very happy with the semi-final win over Mayo. Tom and I played steady and kept the pressure on Joe and Dessie. We knew we had to keep the pressure on them and not give them too many chances to make aces,” said Carroll.


Sheridan has claimed All-Ireland senior doubles gold medals in both the 40×20 and 60×30 with an astonishing four different partners since his maiden senior victory in 1987. Alongside James McGovern, Egin Jenson, Walter O’Connor and more recently Carroll, Sheridan has become an established legend of the Irish game. 25 year old Carroll recognises Sheridan’s savvy.   “It’s great to have the chance to play with Tom. He is without doubt the greatest doubles player I’ve ever seen and he’s not too bad at singles either! His ability to kill the ball from anywhere in the court and his cleverness to play the right shot at the right time is a skill not every player has. Since we started playing together, I’ve learned a lot from him. I feel he has brought my game on a lot over the last few years. He lets me know when I play a good shot and he also lets me know when I play a bad shot, which I think is a good thing.”


Nevertheless, Cavan conquered over the Royal combination in two straight games in the 2011 final 21-10, 21-18 and also managed to upset Meath who were reigning champions in the 60×30 semi-final last July. “Paul and Michael are going to be seriously tough opposition, we are under no illusions. But in saying that, we won’t be happy unless we win. We are playing well and we feel we are in with every chance of winning the final. The lads beat us last year in the final so we hope to learn from that defeat and try not to make the same mistakes we did last year. The lads are a great partnership and will be hot favourites to take the title but we hope we can cause an upset.”


Clare’s USHA 17 and under winner last December, Colin Crehan will partner Niall Bolton in the opening match up against Tyrone in the minor doubles final. This should prove to be an intriguing fixture as both sides will be in buoyant mood ahead of the minor showdown. Clare looked menacing in their semi-final win against Wexford’s Galen Riordan and  Padraig Foley 21- 5, 21- 14 while Tyrone’s Pol Clarke and Gabhainn McCrystall overcame All-Ireland minor singles champion, Leitrim’s Donal Wrynn and partner, Shane Doonan in three games 18-21, 21-15, 21-14 in their last four encounter.


FIXTURES: Saturday 7th April, in Cappagh, Limerick:

All Ireland 40×20 Championship Finals: 

(Recorded for TV)

12.30pm: Minor Doubles Final: Clare (Colin Crehan/Niall Bolton) v Tyrone (Pol Clarke/Gabhainn McCrystall)

1.45pm: Ladies Senior Singles Final: Antrim (Fiona Shannon) or Antrim (Aisling Reilly) v Kerry (Maria Daly)

3.00pm: Mens SD Final: Cavan (Paul Brady/Michael Finnegan) v Meath (Brian Carroll/Tom Sheridan)

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