McCarthy and Casey win All-Ireland Senior Softball Singles titles:

By Paul Fitzpatrick

It was business as usual at the National Handball Centre at Croke Park on Saturday as Catriona Casey and Robbie McCarthy retained their All-Ireland Senior Softball Singles crowns with straight-games wins in the Ladies and Men’s finals respectively.

In the opening match on the programme, Cork’s Casey claimed her seventh Senior Singles title in the ‘big alley’ with a hard-fought 21-13, 21-12 win over first-time finalist Mollie Dagg from Kildare.

Casey was a deserving winner and showed her class to pull away in both games but the scorelines were a little harsh on the 22-year-old Leixlip woman, who was well in contention in both sets before the brilliant Ballydesmond right-hander moved through the gears.

Dagg, showing no signs of nerves, opened an early 5-2 lead which she extended to 11-8 and 13-10 – but then came Casey’s turn to show why she is the best player in the world.

Utilising a tricky lob serve to Dagg’s left, Casey began to engineer attacking opportunities and she punished any soft returns ruthlessly. A straight kill off the right hand saw the 30-year-old Corkwoman lead 14-13 and she didn’t look back.

A couple of hand errors from Dagg and some clinical play in the front court saw Casey close it out 21-13.

Game two followed a similar pattern. Dagg was up 5-3 early on but Casey moved 11-6 and then 15-10 ahead. A tremendous retrieval and rekill in the right corner got Dagg back into the service box and she rode her momentum to 12 but that was as good as it got as Casey again kicked on.

Sensing the finish line, Casey upped the ante and as an under-pressure Dagg got a little ragged, Casey controlled the closing rallies to run out a 21-12 winner.

“It feels brilliant, especially after such a hard-fought final,” said Casey.

“Well done Mollie on a great championship, for her first Senior Singles final, she wasn’t one bit daunted by the occasion or anything, she played amazing, so I’m really happy to get the win.

“It was a very high standard throughout the championship so I’m delighted.

“The hunger to keep training every year, it’s busy when you’re playing all three codes but I love the big alley. It was a shorter season but it’s very enjoyable so I guess I keep trying to improve and work on my weaknesses and keep evolving as a player.”

In the Men’s Senior Singles final, McCarthy powered to his 11th All-Ireland Senior Softball Singles title with a straight games win over a game Diarmuid Mulkerrins from Galway.

The 25-year-old Moycullen man, playing in his first Senior Singles final, would gain some consolation the following day when winning the All-Ireland Intermediate Singles title against Wexford’s Joe Devereux but he found McCarthy too hot to handle in Saturday’s senior decider.

McCarthy started strongly, opening a 6-0 lead, before Mulkerrins cut the gap to 6-4.

From there, though, the Mullingar clubman took over, racing into a 19-4 lead. Mulkerrins reeled off three in a row but a sweetly struck backwall kill and a straight kill down the right saw McCarthy close it out on a 21-7 scoreline.

Game two was tighter in the opening exchanges; Mulkerrins led 3-1 and the pair were tied at 6-6 but again, McCarthy’s quality came to the fore. Commanding centre-court, he was able to cut off Mulkerrins’ returns and pulled clear to 19-7.

A deft, trademark paddle kill in the right corner saw McCarthy close out the match, and the championship, on a 21-8 scoreline.

“It was a good game, thanks for the game Diarmuid, I’m happy with the result,” McCarthy said.