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McMahon eager to stay ahead of the pack

Martina McMahon has her maiden voyage in the 2019 O'Neill's All-Ireland Senior Singles this Saturday when she takes on Kildare's Leah Doyle (Tuamgraney, 5.30pm) in what are very changed circumstances for the Limerick lefty.

This time last year, McMahon was the hunter, seeking to land some major titles; this time around, with the All-Ireland and World Championships in the bag, the Broadford woman is the hunted one.

McMahon now holds all of the major singles titles in the game, having added the Irish Nationals crown a couple of weeks ago, but, she told, there are areas in which she is looking to improve.

"I suppose on paper I am number one in the world but to me I still have a lot of work to do," said McMahon. "I know there are going to be players chasing my tail but I am just aiming to work on my own game and stay focused on what I want to do for myself and my own goals."

"To put it bluntly, I am not bothered, you could say, with ones coming chasing me, I am just focused on myself and what I want to do and hopefully it all goes to plan."

Many talented young players come through the ranks of minor and even intermediate but only the chosen few - seven players in the 27-year history of the competition - get their hands on the O'Neill's All-Ireland Senior Singles title. What made McMahon different?

"Watching the mentality of some of the men," she said, "they are just driven. When I first started out I was driven to get to number one and I suppose when you something and if you really, really want it, you are going to work hard to try and get there.

"I have put in a lot of hours, had some bad days, some good days, but look, all those bad days are worth it now. I know I have a lot to improve on but hopefully I can improve on those things and become more successful."

Off the court, McMahon is not a fiery individual but on it, her explosive attacking style has captured the imagination of the handball public. Her strategy is simple - shoot the ball, early, often and as low as possible.

"I would be pretty laid-back alright, nothing really fazes me, as you could see from the Nationals [final against Catriona Casey]. I was losing well in the first game but I just went all guns blazing really.

"I have a one-track mind, if there's a killshot on, that's what I am going for."

There is a school of thought which suggests that the knowledge that a player is going to go for the bottom board regardless can spook opponents. Shooters are dangerous, or so the logic goes. McMahon herself agrees to an extent.

"Ah, I suppose it does but it can have its down side too, if they're not working obviously I have to change my whole game plan. I feel that I am able to adapt if needs be but I still like to go for the odd kill here and if one or two kills comes off, everything starts to come together. I try to just drive on from there."

Nothing sells a game like a rivalry and McMahon's jousts with Catriona Casey have been an adornment on the sport of handball in recent years. Both players are gifted, dedicated and in their prime and have delivered some epic matches.

McMahon, though, insists that her thoughts are not dominated by her Cork rival.

"No, I wouldn't be focusing on that, there is a lot of hype around the place about it and there are a lot of people that want insights into my thinking about it and it's probably the same Catriona. You could get caught up in all of that but that's not for me, I just focus on what I want to do, just focus on myself and not get into any mind games like that."