Cooney, McCann & Walsh aiming for All-Ireland finals writes Michael McGee
Sligo handball players will be contesting 3 All-Ireland semi-finals over the weekend. Legendary Sligo player Paddy Walsh is first into action against his old adversary in Dublin’s Mick O’Brien. O’Brien has been something of a stumbling block for the St. Mary’s club man in recent years. In the last number of battles O’Brien has come out on top. Walsh had no competition in Connacht while O’Brien defeated Kilkenny’s Jim Dooley in the Leinster final. Walsh is chasing an amazing 29th All-Ireland handball. The maestro won his first national title in 1974. On home ground and a large vocal support behind him Walsh has the confidence this year to finally beat the Dubliner and qualify for another All-Ireland final appearance.
Castleconnor Club man Martin Cooney has a high noon showdown with Kilkenny’s Noel Holden. Cooney is into his second All-Ireland in as many years. Last year he defeated Down’s Sean McNally in the semi-final but was narrowly defeated by Limerick’s John Frazier in the final. Cooney is in top form this year. The only test he got in this year’s championships was in the Connacht final. In that he was forced to play his best game so far in these championships when getting the better of Mayo George Miller by 21-14, 21-20. Holden like Cooney was beaten in last year’s All-Ireland final in the Masters B category. Cooney is in sparking form all season. Cooney the powerful hitter is tipped to reach the final against either Monaghan’s John McGeough or Limerick’s Denis McCarthy
Another handball legend Francis McCann travels to Mullingar to take on Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy. Both players have played at senior level. In McCann’s case he represented Sligo for 19 years in the senior championships. In the Connacht final McCann had an easy 21-5, 21-8 win over Mayo’s Kevin Macken while McCarthy defeated Kildare’s Mick Dowling in the Leinster final a player that McCann knows very well. It was Dowling who defeated McCann in two All-Ireland singles finals last year. Three years ago was McCann’s last All-Ireland triumph beating Cavan’s Mickeleen Brady in the Golden Masters A singles final in Roscommon. The Ballymote club man has 18 All-Ireland titles and is eager to make it 19 this year. McCann’s first All-Ireland title was back in 1977 when winning the Minor All-Ireland doubles title with club mate the late Michael Porter. McCann has worked hard this year in training and with his great experience and fitness he should come through a tough test against the Westmeath man.
Martin Donnelly sponsored G.A.A Handball All-Ireland 60 x 30 championships semi-finals
Saturday 24TH August At Collooney, Sligo at 5pm
O70S: Sligo (Paddy Walsh) v
(Mick O’Brien) Dublin
Sunday 25th August At Kilfane, Co. Kilkenny at 12.noon
SMBS: Sligo (Martin Cooney) v Kilkenny (Noel Holden)
At Mullingar, Co.Westmeath at 4pm
GMAS: Sligo Francis McCann v Westmeath (Robert McCarthy)