LAST weekend proved very successful for Cork handballers the highlight being Catriona Casey bringing the Tour America sponsored 40x20 Ladies All-Ireland Open Singles Championship to the Rebel county and to Ballydesmond club.
While the inclement weather in Ulster disrupted some of the fixtures scheduled for Antrim venues, we had a high success rate in those we contested qualifying for another three All-Ireland finals, in addition to qualifying for a semi-final of O'Neills sponsored 40x20 Open Doubles championship.
Pride of place this week must go to Catriona Casey who was crowned Singles champion in the Tour America sponsored 40x20 All-Ireland Open Singles championship. Following her giant killing act in defeating World Open Singles champion Antrim's Aishling O'Reilly in the semi-final took on Kerry's Maria Daly in the final in Kingscourt on Saturday.
Daly had won this title a few years back so Saturday's game was going to be no pushover it was going to be a difficult task to overcome the Kerry player. However, on this occasion there was never any doubt as to who the master was Catriona despite the best effort of Maria Daly was always in control winning that game 2-10. The second game was a closer affair as Maria Daly battled all the way to try and win it to keep the contest alive, she did push Catriona for a while but she again took control to win the second 21-15 and with it the All-Ireland title. This win was a big boost for Catriona and one which will give her enormous confidence going forward.
Casey, partnered by clubmate Aishling O'Keeffe, is due to meet Maria Daly, partnered by her clubmate Ashley Prendiville, in the doubles final in two weeks time, and despite the fact that the Cork girls have already beaten Kerry in the Munster doubles final this will be a totally new game, for which our pair will have to be in top form to ensure success.
In the quarter-final of the O'Neills sponsored Mens Open Doubles the Cork pair Killian Carroll, Mallow and Brendan Fleming,Ballydesmond proved too strong for Tyrone pair Darragh Daly/Caolain Daly to ease into a semi-final in which they are scheduled to meet Meath pair Brian Carroll/ Carl Browne on Saturday next, venue and time still to be decided at the time of writing. In other semi-finals over the weekend Cork players qualified for three All-Ireland Doubles Finals with some very good displays.
On Saturday at Kingscourt Shane Hedigan and Donnacha O'Dea defeated Monaghan's Terry Kiernan/James Gavaghan in Junior Doubles winning easily on a score 21-9, 21-11.
In Junior B Doubles Ballydesmond pair Denis Quinn/John Casey proved much too strong for Monaghan pair Conor O'Gorman/ John Farrell winning 21-18, 21-3. In Emerald Mas B Doubles Cork pairing of Sean Daly, Liscarroll and Ray Norris, Mallow are also through to the final they defeated James Fealy/ Peter Owen Fealy 21-18, 21-3.
Three games that were scheduled for Belfast venues were called off due to weather conditions, they were Golden Masters A Doubles in which the John Herlihy/John Hedigan combination were due to play Antrim; Diamond Masters B Doubles in which Ballydesmond pair Dave Stack/Tim Joe Healy are due to take on Antrim's Charlie Monaghan/John McManus; and Golden Masters A Doubles in which John Herlihy/ John Hedigan are due to play Antrim's Tony Maguire and Thomas Caddell, and we wish them all the best in their endeavours.
Last weekend most of the 40x20 Munster juvenile team championship was completed with the Mallow Credit Union sponsored teams doing reasonably well. Cork won U16/17 defeating Tipperary in a final which produced some excellent they are a group of players who are well discipilanry. The U-16/17 team was Kilworth's Aidan O'Brien, Brian Sheehan, Jamie Kennelly, Timmy Dune and Boherbue player Shane Flynn.
In U-12/13 Cork defeated Kerry and Waterford to reach the Final, Tipperary came through the other side, but in that Final Tipperary were very strong they eventually won by a 20 ace margin but Cork played well and were in contention up to the last game of 15 aces. The Cork team was four Mallow players Cian O'Driscoll, Anthony O'Connell, Michael O'Malley, Conor Walsh, two from Ballydesmond Sean Murphy, Dylan Kearney, Gerry O'Sullivan, Boherbue and Michael O'Callaghan, Liscarroll.
In U-14/15 age group Cork defeated Waterford in a s/final, they now await the winner of Clare v Tipperary in that final, which is scheduled for Mallow possibly on Wednesday evening.
This weekend will see the qualifiers for the Irish Nationals played at a variety of venues countrywide from Friday to Sunday. The grades which qualifiers will be necessary will be Boys 13 & Under A & B, Boys 15 & Under A & B, Girls 13 & Under B and girls 15 & Under, which at adult level the qualifying games will be in Mens Open, Mens B and Mens C, with a large Cork entry across the grades Cork players will be involved at a number of the venues.