Dublin Duo Defeated in Battle Royal 2016-10-09 20:43:00

In an enthralling All-Ireland Senior Doubles handball final at Croke Park on Saturday, the Meath players Tom Sheridan and Brian Carroll overcame St Brigid’s Eoin Kennedy and Carl Browne. Although the Dublin pair came into this match as reigning champions following their win in 2015, the Meath pair were favourites as they had won the title on no fewer than five previous occasions.

The overall score 21-7, 21-14 did not do justice to the epic battle that thrilled the packed crowd who really got into the match in support of their players. The games took a full two hours of tremendously competitive play before Sheridan and Carroll got the winning point to their immense delight.

It was clear from the outset that the Meath pair were up for the contest as they raced into an 8-0 lead with some outstanding shots. As long-time specialist doubles players they are known for their complementary partnership. With Sheridan a left-hander (or “ciotog”) on the left and the incredible retrieving skills of Carroll on the right they cover both wings and it is hard to put the ball safe unless a flat roll-out. Both are also kill specialists with Sheridan in particular known for his powerful hitting and shooting of the ball. Slower to start, the Dublin pair dug in and fought back ace by ace, getting the Meath pair out of service on many occasions but finding it difficult to win points on their own serve. Getting the score back to 6-10 took thirty minutes of all-out action with long rallies, superb picks and flat kills. The Meath pair tended to dominate the rallies with the Dublin pair under continuous pressure. The more clinical finishing of Sheridan and Carroll resulted in a 21-7 first game.

It seemed as if it would be key for the Dublin pair to get a good start to the second game as fighting from behind is never easy against a pair who rarely miss a return and who pounce on any loose shots. It was again however the Meath pair who got the brighter start to lead 5-0 and then 10-2. Changing to an overhand toss paid dividends for Browne and Kennedy and in the best passage for play for them they came back to 8-10 to the delight of the large contingent of Dublin fans. Again Meath got points to lead 12-8 and Dublin replied to trail by only two points at 10-12. A controversial call was then made by the referee, when he judged Browne to have picked a ball on the second hop. Despite protestations by Browne and many in the packed gallery, the referee stood his ground and refused to change his call. So instead of a hand-out, Meath were awarded the ace and the score stood at 13-10 with Carroll’s service still remaining. Three more points resulted in the same hand for Meath to lead 16-10. The momentum again swung from Meath to Dublin and back for several minutes with Meath hanging on to lead 18-14 but the comeback came too late for Dublin. Unforced errors gave two easy aces to Meath who ran out winners 21-14.

The match had been eagerly looked forward to and the contest lived up to expectations in showing the very best of 60x30 doubles play. Dublin fought to the last ace and lost nothing in defeat to a powerful and comprehensive display by Carroll and Sheridan. Without two great pairs we would not have had the epic match that resulted and that has whet the appetite of the gallery for more such future occasions.

In the medals presentation afterwards the players remembered the late Michael “Ducksie” Walsh who had graced the Croke Park court on so many great occasions and Meath dedicated their win to his memory. The very welcome return to Croke Park of the finals recalled Walsh’s many great exploits and the atmosphere at Saturday’s finals with the very boisterous crowd fully engaged with the all-out on-court action did full justice to his memory and we look forward to many future finals of such quality.

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