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Softball finals pit families against each other at Croke

Handballer Brian Carroll
Tony McGee

Families will be divided at Croke Park today when Dublin face Meath in the MyClubShop.ie All-Ireland Softball finals with uncle against nephew in the senior decider.

Carl Browne will wear the Dublin jersey while Gary McConnell with be clad in the Meath colours.

Browne, of course, partners his usual alley partner Eoin Kennedy with McConnell, in his first senior final, alongside Brian Carroll.

It is an intriguing backdrop to what should be an exciting battle on the triple finals programme that also features the Men's Intermediate Singles' decider and the Boys' Minor final.

“The fact that Carl and Gary will be on opposite sides certainly does give a different slant to the final,” agrees Eoin Kennedy. “No doubt, the Browne and McConnell families will be sharply decided in their support and that should add tremendously to the atmosphere.

“It should be a great atmosphere, anyhow, with the senior final being another Dublin versus Meath clash and Kilkenny being involved in both the intermediate men's and boys' finals. Kilkenny always bring a very big support to Croke Park for finals.

“It is the Halloween holiday weekend down here, of course, and there may be some people away for a few days but, I imagine that the place will be packed, as usual.”

This is the third year in a row that Dublin face Meath in the doubles' decider with the Royal county going for a hat-trick of victories.

Last year, Brian Carroll was partnered by veteran Tom Sheridan who stepped out this season giving the younger Gary McConnell his chance of winning a first senior medal.

However, the Kennedy-Browne combination stays steady.

Kennedy has already won five doubles titles and at 39 would love to collect his sixth, this weekend.

“It would, indeed, be nice to get that sixth title but, no doubt, the Meath pair will be difficult, as usual, to overcome. It may be Gary's (McConnell) first senior final but he has won intermediate and minor finals in the past and played at Croke Park, so I don't think that the occasion will be a big hurdle for him.

“Yes, Carl and I may have more experience of playing together than Gary and Bran have but that shouldn't be a major problem for them. Both are playing well and have a few combined younger years on us.

“However, we have prepared well with both Carl and I in pretty good shape and we are hopeful of stopping Meath's hat-trick drive,” stressed Kennedy who is one of the major exponents of the big alley game, both in singles and doubles, for many years.

He plays on the left giving him a bigger role in going forward and his vast experience should count for a lot in this final.

Dublin got a bye in the quarter-finals over Galway brothers Martin and Diarmuid Mulkerrins and then defeated Wexford's Gavin Buggy and Tommy Hynes at 8 and 2 in the semis.

Meath overcame Kilkenny's Ciarán Neary and Keith Bourke in the semi-finals at 8 and 10 after beating Limerick pair Paidi Quish and Eamon Davern in the semi-finals 21-4, 21-7.

As in hurling, Kilkenny is always strong at any level of handball and with the county's representatives in both the Men's Intermediate Singles and Boys' Doubles finals the alley cats are serious contenders to chalk up two victories.

MyClubShop.ie All-Ireland Softball Finals at Croke Park

Boys' Minor Doubles - Cork (Conor Walsh & Cian O'Driscoll) v Kilkenny (Billy O'Neill & Ciarán Cooney).

Men's Intermediate Singles - Waterford (Philip Butler) v Kilkenny (Brian Mahon).

Men's Senior Doubles - Dublin (Eoin Kennedy & Carl Browne) v Meath (Brian Carroll & Gary McConnell).

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