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A cracking match is in prospect this Saturday

posted 15 Sep 2010, 11:42 by Unknown user   [ updated 15 Sep 2010, 12:04 ]
A cracking match is in prospect this Saturday (4.30 pm), when this year's GAA/M. Donnelly All-Ireland Softball (60x30) Championships Men's Open Senior Doubles final, takes centre-stage in a mouth-watering four-match programme, at Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co. Tipperary (commencing at 12.15 pm).

Last year's beaten finalists and No. 2 seeds, Meath stars, Tom Sheridan and Brian Carroll (both Kells), take on this year's "surprise packages", Kilkenny aces, Michael "Ducksy" Walsh (Talbot's Inch) and Michael Clifford (St. Canice's, Kilkenny City), in what promises to be a high-octane encounter.

Last year, the two pairings fought-out an epic battle in the semi-finals, with the Meathmen eventually edging to victory, over three games, on a narrow scoreline of 20-21, 21-20, 21-10, so if this clash manages to come anywhere near the intensity of last year's, then the capacity crowd will be in for a rare treat. 

Walsh is the most decorated player in the history of the domestic game, with an incredible 38 All-Ireland senior titles to his credit, ten of which are All-Ireland Softball (60X30) Championships Men's Open Senior Doubles crowns. The Kilkenny maestro, who has won nearly every honour in the sport, will receive yet another accolade on Saturday, when he will receive the "Jubilee Award" for his first Men's OpenSenior Singles title of these championships in 1985. 

Walsh has formed a dynamic doubles partnership with Clifford, so far this season and the pair were in devastating form, last weekend, when they overcame defending champions and No. 1 seeds, Dublin stars, Eoin Kennedy (St. Brigid's, Blanchardstown) and Egin Jensen (Na Fianna, Glasnevin), in a thrilling clash. over two games, on a narrow scoreline of 21-17, 21-17.

The Dubliners, who have dominated the Men's Open Senior Doubles section of these championships for much of the last decade, including three consecutive crowns from 2005 to 2007, had been the hot pre-match favourites to advance to yet another final, but the Kilkennymen showed their true class in pipping them to a place in Saturday's decider. 

Meanwhile, Sheridan has been the country's most prolific senior doubles player for the last twenty-three years, having amassed an amazing twenty-one All-Ireland Men's Open Senior Doubles titles, across all the codes of Softball and Hardball (60X30) and (40X20), since 1987, nine of which are All-Ireland Softball (60X30) Championships Men's open Senior Doubles crowns (the first in 1992). 

Sheridan has formed a formidible doubles partnership with Carroll, over the last few years and the Royal duo claimed their first All-Ireland Softball (60X30) Championships Men's Open Senior Doubles title in 2008, when they defeated Mayo kingpins, Dessie Keegan and Joe McCann (both Ballaghaderreen), in one-sided final, over two games, ona decisive scoreline of 21-12, 21-11. 

In last year's final against Kennedy and Jensen, the Meathmen battled bravely, but eventually lost out, over two games, on a narrow scoreline of 21-20, 21-12. Last weekend, in the semi-finals, Sheridan and Carroll were forced to pull out all the stops, to overcome a stern challenge from Wexford aces, Barry Goff (Castlebridge) and ColinKeeling (St. Mary's, Wexford Town), eventually clinching victory, over two games, on a slender scoreline of 21-19, 21-20, to secure their berth in Saturday's showdown. 

The Meathmen will be anxious to make amends for last year's defeat and regain the title they won in 2008, while Walsh will be keen to add yet another title to his illustrious list, by bagging his thirty-ninth All-Ireland crown. With both sets of players currently in top form, this is a match that could go all the way down to the wire. 

"We were very disappointed to lose the title last year, but we're back in the final, with a chance to win it back. Ducksy is the all-time legend of Irish handball and it is a testament to his dedication that he has been playing at the top level for so long. We have trained hard for this final but we know that we are facing a huge battle against Ducksy and Michael. Hopefully, all the intense training and preparation will pay-off on the day with the title going back to Meath", said Sheridan. 

"Tom is one of the all-time great doubles players in Irish handball. He and Brian have formed a great doubles partnership in recent years and myself and Michael have the utmost respect for them. Last year, we went very close to beating them in the semi-finals, so I have no doubt that Saturday's final will be a closely-fought battle. Hopefully, everything will click on the day and myself and Michael can do ourselves justice by bringing the title back to Kilkenny", said Walsh. 

Aidan Crowley

Immediately preceeding this match, is the Intermediate Singles final (2.45 pm), with rising young Limerick star, Seamus O' Carroll (Cappagh), taking on Kilkenny ace, Timmy Clifford (St. Canice's, Kilkenny City). In the Minor Doubles final (1.30 pm), young Limerick stars, Padraig O' Carroll (Cappagh) and Eamon Davern (Hospital), face young Roscommon aces, Mark Nally and Cian Connolly (both St. Coman's, Roscommon Town). The curtain-raiser for the four-match programme, is the Women's Minor Singles final (12.15 pm), with young Cork star, Catriona Casey (Ballydesmond), taking on young Mayo ace, Amy Corrigan (Ballaghaderreen).