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Drama at Croke Park as McCarthy and Casey take the honours

There was drama at the National Handball Centre in Croke Park on Saturday as two of handball’s greatest champions, Catriona Casey and Robbie McCarthy, took home the glory.

Casey regained the Ladies All-Ireland Senior Singles title in straight games while McCarthy held on to his title on an injury default.

Cork’s Casey defeated first-time finalist Fiona Tully 21-10, 21-16 to land her seventh crown. Having lost the decider in 2023 against Galway’s Ciana Ní Churraoin, the Ballydesmond star turned in an outstanding performance to hold off a battling Tully in impressive fashion.

“It feels amazing,” said Casey.

“Fiona is such a great player, she has shown great composure and great resilience throughout the championship, she’s just getting better and better every year so well done Fiona, I’m sure this cup will be in your hands before too long.

“I’ve never played in front of a crowd this big, it’s a great day for handball and hopefully we’ll be looking forward to many more days like this in the new centre.”

The Men’s Senior Singles final was the most eagerly-awaited handball match in decades with McCarthy putting his title on the line against five-time world champion Paul Brady, who had made a sensational return to action in recent months.

And the fairytale seemed on course when Brady (44) won the first game 21-16 and, hitting his stride, opened a 16-3 lead in game two. However, by that stage the Cavanman had picked up a muscle injury and while he took two injury time-outs to get it treated and attempted to play on, he was unable to do so and was forced to concede the match while leading 16-8 after McCarthy reeled off five points in succession.

It was an unfortunate anti-climax to a magical handball occasion before a sell-out crowd at Croke Park.

It was cruel luck on both men; Brady had been leading well before the injury while McCarthy found himself in the difficult position of being awarded the title and cup by default having been well behind in the match.

“I’m gutted, I’m happy with the win but gutted with the way it happened. Everybody growing up wants to beat Paul, I’d rather try to beat Paul at his best, not with having an injury and having to forfeit,” McCarthy sportingly commented.

“It’s just sickening but I can’t do anything about it.”

The brilliant Westmeath right-hander will now turn his attention to the softball code, where he is the dominant player, before playing the World 4-Wall Championships in October, after which he hinted he may take a step back.

“It’s absolutely amazing to look out and see a full gallery back in Croke Park,” McCarthy said.

The focus turns to adult, minor and Master grades this weekend.