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Aoife McCarthy powers to shock handball victory

Tony McGee

WESTMEATH'S Robbie McCarthy may be one of the best known Irish handball players in Europe but it was his sister Aoife who produced a major shock at the men's and women's Myclubshop.ie All-Ireland Softball quarter-finals over the weekend.

She eliminated odds-on favourite Catriona Casey in a sensational match that went to a shootout before McCarthy pulled off an 11-8 victory.

While Aoife has been close to winning many games, unexpectedly, few followers of the game, if any, would have given her a chance of knocking out her great friend Casey.

Not even Aoife would have been confident of performing such a feat. She had never reached a national semi-final before.

However, she was a truly worthy winner. She laid out her stall early by gaining match point in the first game before Casey hit back for a comfortable 21-12 success second time on court to level the argument.

At that stage it seemed that the Corkonion, aiming to win the title this season for a sixth time, would qualify for the semi-finals again but it didn't happen.

“Winning the first game gave me great confidence as it was as close as it could have been. She took the second, comfortably, so it was extremely pleasing for me that I could bounce back again in the tiebreaker to win,” smiled an excited McCarthy.

She added: “It is a bitter-sweet win at the same time, however, as she is my best friend, a great player, and I know she will be down after this result.

“But Catriona is a true champion and I have no doubt, at all, but she will be back winning major honours again in the future.”

It was quite a comeback for McCarthy to clinch an 11-8 victory in the tie-breaker after being crushed 21-12 in the second match.

Three of the four quarter-finals went to a shootout but not the first when defending champion Martina McMahon never allowed her opponent Laura Finn, from Sligo, a point.

The Limerick lass surge to a 21-0, 21-0 win and will clash next Saturday with Aoife Holden (Kilkenny) who overcame Cork's Aisling O'Keeffe 11-4 in another surprise result.

The other semi at Crinkle will feature Aoife McCarthy and Ciara Mahon (Kilkenny) who ousted Mayo's Pauline Gallagher 11-7.

No problem for Robbie McCarthy as he aims to win back the men's title. He cantered into the semi-finals with a double 21-1 victory over Kilkenny challenger Ciarán Neary. The only mild surprise in the men's quarters was former Wexford hurler Barry Goff preventing a Mulkerrins Brothers semi by out-pointing Diarmuid Mulkerrins at 6 and 8. Obviously, Goff's vast experience made a big difference in this clash.

Second seed Martin Mulkerrins has reached the last four but not easily. He had to go to overtime before seeing off Joe McCann (Mayo), another experienced campaigner. McCann won the first game 20-21 but then Mulkerrins forced a play-off at 6. The Galwegian made sure of his semi-final spot with a tie-breaker 11-7 win.

Myclubshop.ie All-Ireland Softball Championships Quarter-finals

Men - Westmeath (Robbie McCarthy) dft Kilkenny (Ciarán Neary) 21-1, 21-1;

Meath (Gary McConnell) dft Offaly (David Hope) 21-12, 21-3;

Wexford (Barry Goff) dft Galway (Diarmuid Mulkerrins) 21-6, 21-8;

Galway (Martin Mulkerrins) dft Mayo (Joe McCann) 20-21, 21-6, 11-7.

Ladies - Martina McMahon (Limerick) dft Laura Finn (Sligo) 21-0, 21-0;

Aoife Holden (Kilkenny) dft Aisling O'Keeffe (Cork) 11-21, 21-20, 11-4;

Ciara Mahon (Kilkenny) dft Pauline Gallagher (Mayo) 21-11, 16-21, 11-7;

Aoife McCarthy (Westmeath) dft Catriona Casey (Cork) 21-20, 12-21, 11-8.

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