Kennedy defeated in tie-breaker in thrilling final 2017-06-05 19:23:00

Kennedy defeated in tie-breaker

St Brigid’s Eoin Kennedy had to be satisfied with the silver medal in his All-Ireland Senior Singles hardball match held at Lahorna Tipperary on Sunday. Having won the first of his eight hardball senior singles as far back as 2003, Kennedy was attempting to defy his years when taking on the 2016 champion CJ Fitzpatrick from Limerick. Fitzpatrick, a full ten years younger, had overcome Kennedy for the first time in the 2016 final, in a terrifically competitive match 17-12, 21-17, 21-16.

Both players came through this year’s championship earlier rounds showing good form to meet in the 2017 All-Ireland final and the crowd were again expecting fireworks. The players did not disappoint as they put on a display of serving and long range killing showing all that is best in this code of handball. Known as the “alley cracker” the ball has a distinctive sharp sound when it meets the front wall adding to the sense of power and precision.

Key to the match was the first game. Recovering from a mid-week infection and still on anti-biotics it was important that Kennedy win the first. Unfortunately for the Dublin player, Fitzpatrick had other ideas and forged an early lead 7-2. He built on this to lead 14-7 and Kennedy had to dig deep to bring the scores back to 15-10. Again Fitzpatrick succeeded in keeping his lead intact bringing it to 18-13 before Kennedy took him out. He needed to get some points but Fitzpatrick rolled a ball out of the front corner to regain the hand and served out the game 21-13.

The second game began better for Kennedy and with precision serving down the right and flat killing the returns, he led 7-3 before Fitzpatrick fought back to 9-7. This game was even tougher than the first as both players fought for supremacy. The St Brigid’s player called on all his experience to make aces and led 18-13, before a Fitzpatrick fight-back brought the scores back to 19-17. The crowd were on their feet acclaiming the efforts of both players. The gallery were enthralled by the quality of the rallies and Fitzpatrick’s incredible speed around the court to pick up what seemed to be rally winning kills by Kennedy. This was balanced by Kennedy’s tenacity and court control as he commanded the centre of the court and through a combination of kills and effective passing shots succeeded in fighting his way to the second game win on a score of 21-17.

The match seemed finely poised for the third game shoot-out. On resumption after the five minute break it was clear from the start that Kennedy had pulled out all the stops to win the second game and that this had taken too much out of him. He needed to make aces in the first few hands but his serving power had diminished and Fitzpatrick was able to take him out too easily. Once he established an early lead the Limerick player played extremely confidentally and was killing spectacularly from all parts of the court with either hand. Kennedy had to take an injury time-out due to bruising of his left hand but this only briefly delayed the inevitable with Fitzpatrick running out the third game easily.

Fitzpatrick’s two wins in a row show his real credentials as a hardball champion and he was a worthy winner in denying Kennedy’s efforts to win his ninth title. The sheer speed of the hardball code makes refereeing difficult and both players were complimented on showing outstanding sportsmanship in calling double bounces against themselves. They have proved again to be Ireland’s two best hardballers and we look forward to future clashes between these two great champions.


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