Following the dramatic servings of last week’s quarter-finals, the victors return this weekend with a place in the Senior Doubles final on the line in a mouth-watering lineup.
Already assured of their place at Kingscourt on Saturday week are Roscommon siblings Fiona and Siobhan Tully who edged Kilkenny pairing Ciara Mahon and Aoife Holden 21-18, 21-9 in a closely fought encounter at Leixlip on Thursday evening. For Fiona, this is a second successive Senior Doubles final, having been partnered by Leona Doolin in a losing effort last year.
Defending Ladies Senior Doubles champions are Catriona Casey and Aisling O’Keefe from Cork, who are red-hot favourites to repeat the feat this year. Standing between them and another title-shot are Leah Doyle and Mollie Dagg of Kildare. The Lillies prevailed in a three-game thriller against Doireann Murphy and Clodagh Nash [Clare] in the quarter-finals, but will know they need to find another gear if they are to stop Casey and O’Keefe, given the form that Singles All-Ireland champion Casey has showcased this year.
The highlight of the weekend is a double-header at Kingscourt on Saturday, in which five of the eight contestants have tasted All-Ireland glory at senior level.
First on the cards is a match featuring reigning champions Diarmaid Nash and Colin Crehan of Clare, and 2015 champions Brian Carroll and Tom Sheridan of Meath. The Banner men held off Tony Healy and Brendan Fleming in a closely-fought quarter-final and enter as favourites against the Royals who are yet to hit top gear in this year’s championship. The Meath duo’s big-game experience was called upon as they battled back from the edge of defeat to eventually outgun Dominic Lynch and Jack O’Shea [Kerry] in the previous round.
On paper, Nash and Crehan have youth and form on their side, and – as they proved against Michael Finnegan and Paul Brady in last year’s final – no shortage of pedigree, but big occasions are what Sheridan and Carroll live for and that adds an unquantifiable element to the equation. It’s advantage Clare, but that’s just the way the Meath men like it.
The final encounter is arguably the most intriguing of the round, and features Diarmuid and Martin Mulkerrins of Galway against the year’s surprise package in Cork’s Daniel Relihan and Michael Hedigan. The Mulkerrins brothers survived an epic encounter against fellow siblings Patrick and Peter Funchion [Kilkenny] last week, with a 21-20 third-game decidedly apt for a match that few could call in the run-up.
In their first year at senior proper, Relihan and Hedigan have taken the championship by storm, systematically taking apart Gavin Buggy and Galen Riordan [Wexford] in the round-of-16, and then more impressively, Eoin Kennedy and Carl Browne [Dublin] in the quarter-final. 2016 champions and number-two seeds, Kennedy and Browne were no match for the Rebels, whose pairing is a throwback to doubles teams of old in which the sum of the partnership is significantly greater than that of the individual parts.
Though brothers and naturally well versed in each other’s game, the Tribesmen are better known for their exploits in singles competition, and thus the clash in approach makes this game as difficult to call as it is exciting to look forward to.
With a main event billing at the Finals Festival at stake, it’s all to play for.
Saturday 13th April
St. Brigids, Dublin OIC Eugene Kennedy (086 3536237) At 5.30pm
- LSD SF1: Cork (Catriona Casey/Aisling O’Keeffe) v Kildare (Leah Doyle/Mollie Dagg)
Kingscourt Ctr 1, Cavan @ 2pm
- MSD SF1: Clare (Diarmuid Nash/Colin Crehan) v Meath (Brian Carroll/Tom Sheridan)
- MSD SF2: Galway (Martin Mulkerrins/Diarmuid Mulkerrins) v Cork (Daniel Relihan/Michael Hedigan)