13th Unlucky for St Brigid's Eoin Kennedy 2015-10-12 12:18:00

St Brigid’s Eoin Kennedy faced Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy in the 2015 All-Ireland Singles softball singles handball final at the packed Abbeylara venue on Saturday 10th.

After an outstanding juvenile career, from the time he started playing in 1989 when St Brigid’s GAA Club built their first handball courts, Kennedy was now contesting his 13th senior softball singles final. The series, remarkable for its consistency (missing out only in 2003), started in 2002 when he made his breakthrough by winning his first Senior Singles title against the legendary Michael “Ducksie” Walsh from Kilkenny.

Kennedy’s incredible run from 2002 through 2010 resulted in multiple titles in each year, including eight softball singles titles. Work and study commitments combined during 2012 and 2013 and he was unable to maintain his winning sequence with both years barren from the point of view of titles. 2009 also saw the emergence of a new outstanding natural talent in Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy and he and Kennedy have since set the standard through outstanding matches with Kennedy leading the series 4-3 going into Saturday’s final.

McCarthy was the victor in successive years 2011-2013. In the 2014 final with McCarthy going for four-in-a-row, Kennedy lost the first game 21-5 in the face of outstanding play by McCarthy. Giving ten years to his younger opponent, a come back did not seem on the cards. However Kennedy had other ideas. In a second grueling game lasting over an hour and keeping the spectators on the edge of their seats, Kennedy won 21-17 to force a tie-break third game, which he went on to win 21-12 and record his 9th Singles title from 12 finals, including 7 in a row between 2004 and 2010. The 2014 win at 35 years of age and giving almost ten years away, underlined his talent and commitment to training. Afterwards Kennedy commented that his 2014 final victory, coming as it did after three successive defeats, was his most satisfactory victory since his first title win back in 2002.

Kennedy continued his fine comeback in 2015 recording his eighth hardball singles in May. He reached Saturday’s softball final after convincing victories over Wexford, Limerick and Kilkenny players. It was again Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy on the other side in the final seeking revenge for his 2014 loss. It was clear from the start that McCarthy was out to regain the title and for Kennedy his 13th final was not to prove lucky!

McCarthy dominated the first game with terrific serving and outstanding long-range killing. Going into an early 8-1 lead everything was going his way and when he is ahead his style of play seems effortless. Incredibly fit he covered the court in fantastic fashion and forced Kennedy into mistakes, which set McCarthy up for long-range back wall kills or short-range soft kills into the corners. As competitive as ever Eoin played his way back to 5-8 to the acclamation of the packed crowd. However he was unable to continue the effort at the same pace and Robbie ran out a first game winner 21-7.

Remembering last year’s incredible come back under similar circumstances Kennedy’s supporters hoped for a similar fight back against the odds. The first ten minutes of the second game were indeed very tight with both players exchanging hands on several occasions without scoring until Kennedy went into a short-lived lead, as McCarthy continued playing outstanding handball. Possibly exacerbated by the fact that Kennedy had played a two and a half hour doubles match the weekend before while McCarthy had a rest weekend, it was clear that the younger man had the advantage in speed and strength. With Kennedy’s serving lacking its usual depth and precision he was unable to put McCarthy under pressure and the second game went to McCarthy through a brilliant display of killing and passing shots. Dominant throughout he regained the title in style and remarked afterwards:

"Eoin is a fantastic player and I knew I would have to be at my best today, I am delighted with how I played. I am fitter this year and also mentally stronger and am delighted it came off for me on the day" exclaimed a delighted McCarthy who credited his new found mental toughness and fitness to his training with the Irish Naval Service.


Saturday 17th 2pm Abbeylara: All-Ireland Senior Doubles Final

Kennedy gets a second chance to win his 29th senior title next Saturday when he and his partner St Brigid’s Carl Browne face off against the Kilkenny pairing of the young Ciaran Neary and the vetern Michael “Ducksie” Walsh. With two legends of the game facing one another, each paired with a younger partner, this match promises to be a thriller with the combination of youth and experience. After their hard won victory on Saturday week last against the four times finalists Mayo’s Dessie Keegan and Joe McCann, Browne and Kennedy enter this match probably slight favourites. For Kennedy a win would be his 5th Doubles title but for his partner Carl Browne it would be even more significant as it would be his first. We hope that Kennedy’s singles final exertions will not count against him this coming weekend and that he and Carl Browne will bring back another senior title to St Brigid’s.

St Brigids GAA Club,
Russell Park, Navan Road, Dublin 15