As the end of the 40 x 20 Handball season looms on the horizon, there is another big weekend in store for supporters of the game. This weekend, Kingscourt will host the All Ireland Doubles series of finals with local players involved in five matches.
The format of playing all the finals on the same weekend is in its second year and has proved to be very popular with supporters and players alike, and has led to an increase in attendances at finals.
Played over two days, the matches involving Kilkenny players are split between Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, the Intermediate and U21 Doubles are down for decision, and on Sunday, Kilkenny will contest the Silver Masters A and B Doubles finals along with the Diamond Masters B decider.
First up on Saturday are the Talbots Inch/Kells pairing of Ciáran Neary and Brendan Burke in their Intermediate Doubles final against Tyrone’s Shane O’Neill and Sean Kerr. The Kilkenny duo had a convincing semi-final win against Mayo and are aiming to attain Senior status having lost finals in 2015 and 2106.
In the U21 Doubles decider, Brian Mahon (Clogh) and Emmet Landy (Windgap) will also face Tyrone opposition in their final, Johnny Woods and Ryan Mullan. The Kilkenny duo also scored a comfortable semi-final win over Mayo, but will face a lot stiffer challenge this weekend at the Cavan venue.
On Sunday, the attention turns to the Masters grades at the Ulster venue and there will be local interest in three of the finals down for decision. In the Silver Masters grade, Kilkenny are involved in both the A and B finals.
In action early on Sunday are Willie Holden and David Bourke and they face another Tyrone duo, Kenny Curran and Finbarr Fullan in their quest for Silver Masters B Doubles honours. The Kilfane/Mothel pair were impressive in their two set win over Mayo, and a repeat of that performance will make life very difficult for the opposition.
Next on court are the Diamond Masters B pairings of Kilkenny and Down. Representing Noreside are Joe Anthony (MullInavat) and Billy Love (Clogh) and they will face Brian Davern and Peter McSherry from the Ulster county. Joe scored a great win against Davern in the All Ireland Singles final a few weeks ago, and will be hoping that his partnership with the North Kilkenny man, Billy Love, proves as fruitful on Sunday.
To complete Kilkenny’s involvement in the Doubles weekend, Eddie Bourke (O’Loughlins) and Joe Walsh (Mullinavat) play Paddy Crothers and John McGarry from Antrim in the Silver Masters A. Having come through Leinster without any competition, Eddie and Joe had a tough three set win over Mayo in O’Loughlins two weeks ago.
This final against Antrim will be another step up in class and they will need to produce a good display to secure victory against a very experienced pair.
Additional reporting by Kilkenny Handball