Nash gunning for a fourth Senior Doubles title:

By Paul Fitzpatrick

While he may have competed at the business end of the singles Majors for many seasons now, Diarmaid Nash still prizes the All-Ireland Senior Doubles very highly.

The Tuamgraney clubman is aiming for a fourth Senior Doubles title in tandem with Kilkishen’s Colin Crehan when they take on Cork’s Daniel Relihan and Michael Hedigan this weekend – and the Clare pair had this weekend circled on the calendar from a long way out.

“Obviously, we are playing an individual sport but it’s no more than golfers, you ask a golfer what they want to win, it’s the Majors first and then the Ryder Cup,” Nash explained this week.

“Doubles is our only main team event in handball, it’s a senior All-Ireland, we want to win it. It is important – obviously, the singles is the Holy Grail so to speak but the doubles is still very important for players.”

Nash and Crehan have been playing together for a long time now and probably would have another title or two to their name but for the pandemic. They know each other’s games inside out by now but still require doubles specific training at this time of the season.

“We did a bit more this year, the doubles is on first so we had more opportunity to do doubles training. We have played more in the last couple of weeks than we might have in prior years because there was just a bit more time with it coming first.

“But at this stage we’re pretty well used to each other, we’re pretty well synced up. We would usually have four or five training games between rounds, we’d do a fair bit when the doubles is on. It builds up over time also, we have kind of felt that the times we have lost in the past, we hadn’t played together enough so we’re conscious of that.

“We want to make sure we’re playing sharp and playing well, I think that comes from singles as well, it’s not all about playing doubles. You get more of the ball in singles and then being synced up to know when to leave the ball, calling and so on, every year that takes a bit of time to sync again. We would do a fair bit of doubles training.”

The Banner men won the first title in the new National Handball Centre last year and Nash feels its long-awaited opening has been a real boost for the sport.

“It’s very cool. Even looking at the crowds that were there for the semi-finals, there were way more people who came to watch. Kingscourt is an amazing venue for handball but obviously the fact that the National Centre is in Dublin, it’s easier for people to travel to from around the country and also the fact that it is Croke Park – when you tell people the finals are on in Croker, it adds a bit of oomph, a bit of razzmatazz.

“The show court is obviously fantastic, it’s just very cool for everyone involved. I think it’s great. I wish we had it 10 years ago but I’m delighted to be playing in it now. I think we’re entering a good era for handball and the centre will be great for years to come.”

How does he evaluate Clare and Cork’s respective strengths?

“At this stage we’re well used to playing with each other and we know our strengths. Colin is a very attacking player and a sort of kill artist – we mesh well because I keep the game alive a lot of the time and I am good to pick and a good rallier and that kind of thing and hopefully can get us set-ups and he has the ability to put those set-ups away, which is great.

“He’s got fantastic hands, I feel like a lot of my job is to do the picking, I am fairly quick inside so keep the rallies alive and then he has an unbelievable ability to shoot the ball so I suppose we complement each other quite well.

“The Cork lads are kind of similar as well actually, they’re opposites in ways. Michael is an unbelievable man to pick ball and he can kill it too, he’s a fantastic player and a real hard-nosed competitor and really tough to play in singles or doubles.

“The rallies go on way longer when he’s playing.

“Then Daniel has that touch of class, he’s got the tomahawks and some unbelievable shots from all over the court. He adds that shooting ability and no more than Colin, the two of them are real shooters and attacking type of players.

“Myself and Michael would maybe be more defensive. It’s two good teams, obviously it’s a repeat of last year’s final and no doubt the guys will be gunning for us after last year so we’re under no illusions as to the challenge.”

There is a bumper programme of finals this weekend in all Adult and Masters grades. The Men’s and Ladies Minor and Senior Doubles and the Masters A Doubles will be streamed live on Sport TG4 YouTube page from 12 noon on Saturday.