Sport GAA

Thursday 19 September 2019

Mullingar star McCarthy chases five in a row in last final on iconic Croke Park court

Handball

McCarthy:
McCarthy: "I just go into the court and go for broke, that’s me." Photo: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Paul Fitzpatrick

While Dublin footballers have rightly been hogging much of the headlines, Croke Park will witness another drive for five today when Robbie McCarthy defends his MyClubShop.ie All-Ireland 60x30 senior singles title.

The Mullingar maestro again takes on his great rival Eoin Kennedy of Dublin, although the defending champion - much like Jim Gavin's history-seekers - has been quick to dismiss any talk of milestones.

"I haven't thought about that, I didn't even realise it was five to be honest," McCarthy said. "I knew I was going for number eight but not five in a row. I don't think about things like that, I just go into the court and go for broke, that's me."

What makes this final particularly special is that it marks the last senior singles decider to be played at the Irish Handball Centre at the stadium.

The iconic venue, which was opened in 1970, is soon to be demolished, with a new state-of-the-art six-court facility on a nearby site nearing completion.

Greats

The 'glass court' at Croke Park is synonymous with some of the greats of the game, including Pat Kirby of Clare, Joey Maher of Louth and Wexford's Dick Lyng, but the man most associated with the venue is Kilkenny's legendary Michael 'Ducksy' Walsh.

The Talbot's Inch man, who died suddenly three years ago, won the softball title 16 times at the famous arena and the fact that the cup McCarthy and Kennedy will play for now bears Walsh's name is a huge motivating factor for the champion.

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"I don't think I'll ever match what Ducksy did, he was one of a kind. But at the same time, my preparation is geared to this trophy. I really want to win it, more than anything else. When I was younger, I used to go and stay with Ducksy for weekends and train with him. He meant a lot to me and to keep this trophy is my priority."

On the undercard to the men's final is the ladies senior singles, a repeat of last year's epic as Limerick's Martina McMahon meets Catriona Casey of Cork, while Kilkenny's Kyle Dunne takes on Monaghan's Eoghan McGinnity in the minor singles final.

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