Robert McCarthy falls to the fast hands of Dubliner Eoin Kennedy
It was a full house as the patrons packed into the handball centre at Croke Park for the final staging there of the 2019 All-Ireland Softball deciders before the action moves to the new alley, just a short distance away, and the crowd was treated to a fabulous finish.
Dubliner Eoin Kennedy, appearing in his 18th men's singles final – his 11th consecutive - and looking for his 10th win, produced one of his best ever performances to defeat reigning champion Robert McCarthy and enter the exclusive club of winners such as Duxie Walsh, Joey Maher and Pat Kirby.
There have been close finals in the past but none can compare with this cracker between Kennedy and defending champion McCarthy, the hot favourite to hold on to the title.
In Game One, Kennedy stormed off to lead 12-8 with deadly kill shots and his trademark serves. He opened out to 15-11 but McCarthy wasn't going to give up without a stern fight and he reeled of four unanswered aces to level at 15. Twice more the battle was level and the defending champion went 2019 ahead before Kennedy levelled at 20 and then unleashed a bullet-like corner kill to take the game 21-20.
It was McCarthy's turn to bounce off in style in Game Two as he shot to 7-2 and 10-6 leads before Kennedy moved into gear to rattle off four unanswered points and tie the argument at 14-14. It was balanced again at 17 before Kennedy moved in front for the first time at 19-18 and then 20-18 for match point before winning the title for the 10th time, at the age of 40, with another bottom right-hand corner kill and move into the record books.
“I was determined to make the last final in the present alley and when there I wasn't going to give up easily,” he stressed after rolling back the years.
If the men's decider was a pulsating affair not so the women's final as Limerick's Martina McMahon, unexpectedly, easily defeated five times champion Catriona Casey in two games at 21-12 and 21-9 for her third crown. A pretty comprehensive victory for the world champion in a repeat of the world final last August.
“I am very disappointed in my performance but Martina played a lot better than I did and deserved to win. It is now on to the Doubles next weekend,” said a bitterly disappointed Casey.
Meanwhile Kilkenny's Kyle Dunne captured the Minor Singles title following a thrilling tie-break victory over Monaghan's Eoghan McGinnity. Dunne lost the first game 14-21 but then chalked up 21-13 and 21-18 results to take the title.
MyClubShop.ie All-Ireland Singles 60x30 Championship finals at Croke Park
Men's – E Kennedy (Dublin) dft R McCarthy (Westmeath) 21-20, 21-18.
Ladies' – M McCarthy (Limerick) dft C Casey (Cork) 21-12, 21-9.
Boys' Minor – K Dunne (Kilkenny) dft E McGinnity (Monaghan) 14-21, 21-13, 21-18.