The O'Neill's All-Ireland 4-Wall Ladies Senior Singles has become one of the most gripping of all leading handball championships in recent years, with a number of engaging rivalries captivating audiences and helping to showcase the ever-increasing standards.
First, it was clubmates Fiona Shannon and Aisling Reilly from the famous St Paul’s club in Antrim who met in three successive finals up to 2009. Reilly and Catriona Casey also shared the main stage three times and then it became Casey and Martina McMahon, the Cork-Limerick pair who have held the ladies game in a vice-like grip.
All the time, it felt like the cavalry were coming, snapping at their heels. This year, with McMahon injured, the way was clear for a new face to make a first Senior Singles final and after a titanic semi-final battle against Fiona Tully, it was Galway’s Ciana Ní Churraoin who made the leap.
The powerful right-hander came through that semi-final test to set up a tilt at the defending champion in what should be an intriguing game this afternoon in Kingscourt. Casey has amassed vast experience at home and abroad and has been in magnificent form in recent seasons, regularly holding opponents to low single digits with her smooth all-round game, sharp serving and brilliant front-court play.
Ni Churraoin, who has also competed with great success in the United States where she spent time studying and competing, is explosive and attack-minded and will relish a crack at the title.
A fantastic final is in store in a grade which has thrown up lots of them in the last decade. Catriona will start as favourite given her phenomenal track record but Ciana is herself one of the most talented ladies to emerge in recent decades too which makes this one of the most interesting finals of the weekend.