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Business as usual as defending champ McCarthy returns to another senior final

For Robbie McCarthy, playing in an All-Ireland Senior Singles final must feel like second nature. The Mullingar man (36) has long been regarded as a special talent and he has the trophies and medals to prove it, writes Paul Fitzpatrick.

Since he reached his first 4-Wall senior decider in 2012, Robbie has featured in the showpiece every season bar one – and, in the same timeframe, he has taken his place in every Senior Softball Singles final, too.

That’s an extraordinary record, especially considering most handballers can only dream of qualifying for one senior final. After his win over David Walsh of Cork in the semi-final, Robbie agreed that his plan all season has been to make it this far and, for now, it’s a case of so far, so good.

“Delighted to be back, that was the plan and everything seems to be going according to plan at the moment, thank God,” said the Irish Defence Forces member.

“I’m hungry to hold on to the cup. I kind of eased back a bit on training, the body isn’t as young as it used to be so I kind of trained a little bit smarter. Everything is going according to plan, I’m happy enough with how I’m feeling, happy enough the way I am. It’s all going okay.”

After so many years at the top, the motivation still hasn’t waned. McCarthy enjoys the challenge although, with so many of his goals achieved, he insists he is slightly more carefree in how he approaches the major competitions.

“I’m not putting as much pressure on myself any more, it’s just go in and try to enjoy myself, have some fun – play to win but still enjoy myself. I’m 37 this year so it would be a good sign to be getting beaten by the younger lads because it would mean things are developing.

“Obviously, I still won’t let them beat me, I’ll do my best to win, but it would be a good sign to see them coming through.”

Having won the first Senior Softball Singles final in the new National Handball Centre last year, McCarthy will be aiming to complete a neat double by adding the first Senior Singles in the 4-Wall code at HQ.

“I’m happy it’s back in Croke Park. It’s a little bit of a hindrance getting used to the court obviously with the glass but everyone is in the same boat, it is what it is and it’s great to be back up in Croke Park,” he said.

In terms of his form, he’s content enough but feels there is more in the tank.

“I was happy with the way I’m moving over the weekend, I don’t seem to be playing at my best obviously but David (Walsh) and me have played so much together, we know each other’s games so well. Yeah, I’m just happy to get through it and we’ll see how it goes after that.”