Sean Lenning meets his match in Martin Mulkerrins
IF SEAN Lenning didn’t know it before, he knows now that there is greater depth in Irish handball than Paul Brady.
Lenning certainly learned that on his weekend visit to the Gaffney Memorial Ranking tournament at Ballaghaderreen and St Colman’s Handball clubs in Mayo and Roscommon.
The quarter-finals was as far as the USHA number three got. He was stopped there by Galway’s Martin Mulkerrins in two fabulous games at 19 and 20 but, of course, it is not unusual for Mulkerrins to overcome a top ranking US player.
Martin, a three-times winner of the US Collegiate Championship, has defeated other leading home-based players in the US before, as he now makes frequent visits across the Atlantic.
The winner certainly showed his class as, in the first game against Lenning, he fell 12-5 behind and 10-0 down in the second, before hitting back to win both by a hair’s breadth.
Conjuring up reserves of energy, Mulkerrins bravely fought back to win the first match 21-19 and it was even closer second time on court as the Irish player stopped his opponent on the line, to reach the semi-finals with a 21-20 result.
Killian Carroll, going for a three-in-a-row of Gaffney titles, Charly Shanks and Irish champion Robert McCarthy all reached the semis with something to spare, with the clash of Carroll and Shanks at the penultimate stage producing some fireworks.
The Cork man led Lurgan player Shanks 15-8 but the Ulster champion stormed back and the argument was level at 19-19 for a spine-tingling finish. It took seven serves before Carroll managed to get the two aces he required for victory. In the second game, Carroll went 15-4 up and reached his third final in-a-row, 21-10.
Mulkerrins seemed to be heading for another big scalp as he led McCarthy 12-0 but the Westmeath man went on an amazing 19-1 run before the Tribesman made it 20-19. However, that was as far as he got as McCarthy clinched the match point.
The second game was tense and tight. The Irish champion was 18-14 up and then won the next three points to book his place in the final against holder Carroll.
It took a shoot-out to decide the final. Carroll showed that he had no intentions of giving up the title as he led McCarthy in the first game but the challenger had the tussle level at 19-19. The holder then showed remarkable sportsmanship by calling a block on himself and handing serve to his opponent. McCarthy didn’t cash in and Carroll went one game up 21-19.
McCarthy, in the second game, produced his championship form with deadly kills and easily levelled the final with a 21-9 result. In the tie-breaker he continued with his upsurge and took the crown from the Leesider’s head with an 11-4 third game victory.