Stage set for All-Ireland Doubles finals:

By Paul Fitzpatrick

The stage is set for the All-Ireland 4-Wall Senior Doubles finals – and both will be a repeat of last season.

In the Men’s grade, defending champions Diarmaid Nash and Colin Crehan from Clare defeated former winners Gary McConnell and Brian Carroll of Meath 21-14, 21-8 at Croke Park while Cork’s Michael Hedigan and Daniel Relihan earned a nailbiting 15-21, 21-19, 11-7 win over brothers Patrick and Peter Funchion of Kilkenny.

In the ladies semi-finals, Cork’s Catriona Casey and Aishling O’Keeffe were 21-11, 21-4 victors over Eilise McCrory and Aoife Kelly of Tyrone. They will take on Galway’s Ciana Ní Churraoin and Niamh Heffernan, who were comfortable 21-2, 21-5 winners over Leah Minogue and Caitriona Millane from Clare.

The senior finals, which will be streamed live on the Sport TG4 YouTube page, will be eagerly-anticipated. The ladies final last year was decided by a wafer-thin margin, Cork winning an 11-10 tiebreaker, while the men’s final also looks an intriguing tussle in which the Rebels will hope the experience of last year will stand to them against the brilliant Banner partnership.

Cork will also be represented at intermediate level, with Gearoid Healy and Donnacha O’Dea taking on Antrim men Jordan O’Neill and Mark Rainey.

The Minor Ladies Doubles will be contested between Katie Brennan and Holly Byrne (Kilkenny) and (Aoibe Ni Chadhain and Sile Ni Chonghaile from Galway. In the male equivalent, the same counties are in action, with Anthony Clifford and John Hayes representing the Cats and Gavin Kelly and Caleb Donnellan flying the Galway flag.

The finals take place next weekend at the National Handball Centre in Croke Park.

Also in action will be five-time world champion Paul Brady, who is through to the Masters A Doubles final, and Tipperary All-Ireland-winning hurler Jerome Cahill, who will line out alongside Colin Ryan in the Junior Doubles decider against Kilkenny’s Dylan Caulfield and Jack Holden; the latter will be aiming for a second major success in Croke Park in a matter of weeks having won an All-Ireland IHC hurling medal with Thomastown back in mid-January.