All-Ireland Senior Softball Singles Championship continues:

By Paul Fitzpatrick

The All-Ireland Senior Softball Singles fields in the Men’s and Ladies grades have been whittled down to eight players – four in each – as the season comes to the boil.

The quarter-finals took place at Crinkle and Fahy last Saturday and produced a number of excellent contests, two of which went to tiebreakers.

In the Men’s championship, defending champion Robbie McCarthy ran out a 21-7, 21-12 winner over Kilkenny’s hardball champ Shane Dunne while last year’s finalist Martin Mulkerrins turned back Kilkenny’s Jack Holden on an almost identical scoreline (21-8, 21-12).

McCarthy and Mulkerrins will now clash in what is sure to be an eagerly-awaited semi-final this Saturday.

Mulkerrins’ younger brother, Diarmuid, also secured his passage to the last four with an impressive 21-17, 21-7 victory over Wexford’s Keith Armstrong, who had taken the notable scalp of Irish Nationals finalist Michael Gregan in the previous round.

Diarmuid will now meet Sligo’s Cormac Finn, who defeated Joe Devereux of Wexford 21-16, 21-15 in his quarter-final. Interestingly, Mulkerrins and Finn clashed in the Connacht Intermediate Singles decider last night (Monday) at St Coman’s in Roscommon, with Mulkerrins edging a high-quality encounter 11-2 in the tiebreaker.

In what is possibly a unique situation in the handball annals, the two will go toe-to-toe again this Saturday, with a place in the Senior Singles final at stake. Regardless, some history will be made with the possibility of McCarthy extending his superb record and advancing to another final as well as the chance of two brothers meeting in a Senior Singles final or former minor winner Finn becoming the youngest senior finalist in many years.

All of these permutations will make for an intriguing line-up when the four men’s semi-finalists do battle at HQ on Saturday. Another possibility is that Robbie and Aoife McCarthy could both be in action in senior finals on the same day following Aoife’s quarter-final win over Aishling O’Keeffe (21-4, 21-5) last weekend.

McCarthy will meet Kildare’s Mollie Dagg in the semi-final on Saturday in Croke Park after the Leixlip woman defeated Kilkenny’s Aoife Holden 14-21, 21-19, 11-8 in a very hard-fought encounter.

In the other semi-final, in a repeat of a recent senior final, Mayo’s Cuileann Bourke will take on championship favourite Catriona Casey of Cork. Belcarra’s Bourke had to pull out all the stops after dropping game one 11-21 against Wexford teenager Jodie Keeling but recovered to win 21-8, 11-1 and return to the last four.

Casey, meanwhile, was in outstanding form as she saw off former champion Martina McMahon on a 21-16, 21-12 scoreline.

The McCarthy v Dagg, McCarthy v Mulkerrins and Mulkerrins v Finn semi-finals will take place at Croke Park this Saturday. Casey v Bourke is down for decision in Belcarra tomorrow night (Wednesday) and will be streamed on the Mayo GAA Handball Facebook page.


MSS: Galway (Martin Mulkerrins) dft. Kilkenny (Jack Holden) 21-8, 21-12

MSS: Galway (Diarmuid Mulkerrins) dft. Wexford (Keith Armstrong) 21-17, 21-7

MSS: Westmeath (Robbie McCarthy Jnr.) dft. Kilkenny (Shane Dunne) 21-7, 21-12

MSS: Sligo (Cormac Finn) dft. Wexford (Joe Devereux) 21-16, 21-15

LSS: Mayo (Cuileann Bourke) dft. Wexford (Jodie Keeling) 11-21, 21-8, 11-1

LSS: Westmeath (Aoife McCarthy) dft. Cork (Aishling O’Keefe) 21-4, 21-5

LSS: Kildare (Mollie Dagg) dft. Kilkenny (Aoife Holden) 14-21, 21-19, 11-8

LSS: Cork (Catriona Casey) dft. Limerick (Martina McMahon) 21-16, 21-12