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Thrills expected in intriguing Abbeylara handball clashes

Eoin Kennedy will take on Ducksy Walsh at Abbeylara at the weekend  
Tony McGee

EXCITEMENT is expected at Abbeylara on Saturday, where three tasty M Donnelly All-Ireland 60×40 Singles semi-finals will be fought out, with the men's battle between Eoin Kennedy and Ducksy Walsh expected to produce fireworks.

Also on the bill are the two ladies' Senior Singles semis with Catriona Casey going for a fourth consecutive title. She clashes with Amy Corrigan, with Martina McMahon and Ciara Mahon in the other battle.

Undoubtedly, Kennedy and Walsh are legends in their own time in handball. This game could be the highlight of the year on the big alley with the opponents having 25 titles, in softball singles, between them.

Dubliner Kennedy defends the title and is looking for his tenth crown, Walsh has already 16 successes in the singles and, even at 49, is still not content with his amazing haul of medals. He played in the World Championships this year, winning the Men's Masters' title, Kennedy stayed at home to concentrate on his work and preparations for the 60x40 in which he is a real master.

“Eoin is a great player and I will have a big job to stop him reaching the final again,” said Kilkenny man Walsh.

“I still have the handball but my legs aren't getting any faster.”

It will surely be a game of technique with both players knowing every trick in the trade. Kennedy may be slight favourite but one never writes off Walsh.

Cork star Catriona Casey is favourite to bring her Ladies' Senior Singles run of successes to four years, as she faces Mayo girl Amy Corrigan who, like Casey, has won three Softball Doubles titles. She had a comfortable win over Aisling O'Keeffe at 6 and 7 in the quarter-finals but Casey is a different class.

Big hitter Martina McMahon has been proving her talent on all courts over the past year or so and should have a bit too much power to overcome Ciara Mahon in the other semi-final and reach the decider for a second year in-a-row.

Meanwhile, the date is now confirmed for the St Paul's Golden Gloves 40x20 ranking event. It will be played on November 6 to 8 and there is a chance that initial winner Ducksy Walsh may make a return to the tournament.

“I'm thinking about it. I'd like to play in the Golden Gloves again as I was the first winner of the event,” said Walsh.

The competition will mean a hive of activity in west Belfast as games will be spread out at the two newly-refurbished St Paul's courts, Coláiste Feirste's two new courts, Gort na Mona's courts and the refurbished Rossa facilities. The courts are all within a five to 10 minutes drive of each other.

The Golden Gloves will launch the new season of 40×20 ranking events for men and women which means that many top players throughout Ireland will give serious consideration to enter.

Last year, Cork young star Killian Carroll won the Men's Open, beating southern neighbour Diarmaid Nash, while Aisling Reilly, from the host club, took the Ladies' Open title. Reigning world champion Reilly will defend the title and Carroll is expected to do similar.

The entry deadline is October 28 and the grades are: Boys' & Girls' – 15&Under; 17&Under; 19&Under; Men's – A, B & C Competitions; Masters' – A & B Competitions; Golden Masters' Competition; Men's & Women's Open Competitions.

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