Sunday 17 November 2019

McCarthy digs deep to clinch first title

Handball

Robbie McCarthy
Robbie McCarthy

Trailing by 20-15 in the third game of a dramatic O'Neill's All-Ireland 40x20 senior singles final, Westmeath's Robbie McCarthy had only one thought running through his mind - keep on battling.

After a two-hour slugfest which is already being spoken about as one of the most dramatic senior finals ever played, Armagh's Charly Shanks held a commanding lead and looked odds-on to win his first title.

But McCarthy dug deep and saved game-ball before running off six points to hold on to the crown.

McCarthy, an Irish Navy recruit, looked dead and buried, having lost the opener 21-12, won the second 21-5 but had been outplayed for long spells in the third and deciding game.

The exchanges were tight at the beginning of the deciding set but Shanks (32) looked set to take his maiden senior 40x20 title when he raced into a 12-4 lead.

Although McCarthy rallied, the Lurgan right-hander pulled clear again to lead 18-13 and then 20-15, greeting his arrival at game-ball with a huge fist pump.

But McCarthy showed that he has ice in his veins. In a tense closing passage of play, he flattened the ball off the back wall on Shanks' first serve for the match and then held off a second game-ball to close the gap, before drawing level at 20-all when a soft paddle attempt in the front left fell agonisingly short.

McCarthy will captain Ireland at the World Handball Championships in Canada in August.

Meanwhile, Aisling Reilly of Antrim defeated Cork's Catriona Casey 21-15, 21-13 in the ladies final, with Mayo's Niall Joyce seeing off Sean Kerr from Tyrone 21-17, 21-13 in the minor decider.

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