CLARE have a new All-Ireland Champion following a thrilling victory by Diarmaid Nash in the senior singles 40×20 handball this weekend.
The Scariff man took the honors with a 21-8, 17-21, 11-8 final victory over Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy in a crowded Kingscourt, Cavan on Saturday.
McCarthy, a four-time senior singles champion, was the clear favorite heading into the final, but it was Nash who dominated the opener, putting up a phenomenal display of shooting to win 21-8.
The Westmeath man was never going to give up without a fight and it was he who took the initiative in game two, working his way to a 17-9 lead.
Again though, the Tuamgraney Nash clubman settled in and gradually fought back to lose by just four points, 17-21 to set up a thrilling tie-break in game three.
The tension in the huge crowd was palpable as, with all that was at stake, Nash took a 6-0 lead. McCarthy rallied again but the Scariff native was able to keep him at bay and, after playing some of the best handball of his senior career throughout the game, used his impeccable physical form to keep his blood- cold and take the decider 11-8.
There followed scenes of jubilation thanks to the important traveling support of Banner County, as Nash closed a 42-year gap with the last Clare man to win the Gael Linn Cup, the famous Pat Kirby of Tuamgraney.
After beating Wexford man Gavin Buggy in the first round of the Championship, Nash’s path to the final included a straight quarter-final win over Kilkenny’s Peter Funchion and a snappy 21-5, 21-14 semi-final blitz. defending champion Martin Mulkerrins of Galway.
There were emotional scenes of celebration as GAA Handball chairman Conor McDonnell presented the cup to Diarmaid, who had already lost the finals in 2014 and 2019 (both to his former two-time Championship winner partner). world, McCarthy).
Surrounded by his family, Nash dedicated the victory to his late brother Barry, himself a former minor champion. Nash, 31, is a former All-Ireland Minor, Intermediate and Irish national champion (including doubles titles with teammate Niall Malone), and also won the last two All-Ireland senior doubles titles with Colin Crehan (Kilkishen).
He has also secured World Handball Championship titles in the 15-and-under and 23-and-under categories, but this monumental achievement will surely be the sweetest of them all and surrounded by his family, Nash dedicated his historic victory to his late brother Barry, himself a former minor champion.
There were happier scenes in Tuamgraney on Sunday evening as the local club and wider community came together in large numbers to throw a homecoming party for the new champion, along with Tuamgraney club member Paul Rodgers and native of Scariff, who on Sunday at Kingscourt won the All-Ireland Under 14 Boys Singles Title, beating Calum Sherry of Monaghan in an excellent final (15-8, 15-12).
There was no joy for Clare’s other All Ireland juvenile finalists as Cliona Rodgers (Tuamgraney) lost to Katie Jordan of Kilkenny 11-15, 11-15 in the girls’ singles final under 15, while there was also a loss for unlucky Danny Rodgers and Liam Murphy (Tuamgraney, Kilkishen) in the Boys Under-14 doubles final against Kilkenny (Andrew Brennan and Matthew Murphy, 15-9 , 13-15, 9-15) and for Aoife Frost and Ellen Collins (Kilkishen, Newmarket) in the Under 16 Girls doubles decider, also against Kilkenny (Katie Brennan and Holly Byrne).
There were two other All Ireland singles champions from Clare crowned at Kingscourt this weekend as Con Collins of Kilkishen, representing Antrim, won his singles final over 40 B 21-20, 21-11 against Wexford’s David Stanners and there was also success for Newmarket native Conor Maxwell, who won over 45 singles B medals for Dublin when he beat Galway’s Kieran Hanley 21-4, 21-3.
The handball action continues this week, as on Monday night the delayed women’s doubles final will take place at Nenagh when Leah Minogue and Aine Lenihan take on Tipperary pair Hannah Grace and Leanne Gould.
This Saturday, Diarmaid Nash is back on the pitch as he and Colin Crehan begin their bid for three consecutive All-Ireland senior doubles titles with a first-round match against Kilkenny or Wexford this Saturday (match TBC).
The other victorious winners of Clare’s Munster Doubles finals await their All-Ireland semi-final dates, Shane Hayes and Darren O’Neill (Clooney, men over 35) and Chloe Philpott and Orla O’Brien ( Kilkishen, junior ladies).