Wexford’s Barry Goff and Colin Keeling produced a scintillating third-game display to topple 2010 beaten finalists Kilkenny to progress to the 2011 M Donnelly GAA handball softball doubles final.
They will now prepare for Mayo’s Joe McCann and Dessie Keegan who also needed three games to get the better of Cavan’s Michael Finnegan and Paul Brady.
Goff had been one of the favourites for the singles this term but bowed out at the semi-final phase to eventual winner, Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy in the third.
He wasn’t going to go down in similar fashion at the same stage of the doubles as he combined with Keeling to expel Ducksy Walsh and Michael Clifford in three games at Williamstown, County Galway.
After taking the opener by a three-point margin and leading 18-17 in the second, Wexford looked set to advance but the experienced Walsh, who holds ten senior doubles medals, helped guide Kilkenny to level matters, edging the second 21-19.
Walsh and Clifford then broke three clear in the tie-break, but that’s as good as it got for the 2010 runners-up. Wexford turned up the heat to take the next twenty scores and ease into the 2011 decider, scheduled for next Saturday.
“We won the first game and it was close in the second with the scores level a number of times, but then Kilkenny got away from us to lead 15-10 and we were always playing catch up,” said Goff.
“I thought we weren’t playing as well as we could have but we managed to get back on top to lead 18-17. They did enough to take it in the end. In the third we just kept at the same tempo and the Kilkenny boys seemed to tire a bit.
“Ducksy and Michael played really well and they led 3-0, but we got back in to serve and took the next twenty points and we managed to finish out the game.”
Goff, who is a former inter-county hurler, will now make his fourth final appearance in the softball code and continues to pursue a first win.
In 2006, alongside Gavin Buggy, he lost out in the doubles and was runner-up to Eoin Kennedy in the singles in 2004 and 2005.
“I finished up with the hurling in 2009 and really focused on the handball and I trained really hard especially this year for the singles but Robbie (McCarthy) was great this year. So I’ve concentrated on the doubles ever since and I’m glad to be back in the final.”
Wexford will now be aiming to add the championship gong to their Irish Nationals title, which they claimed back in July but they will be in for one tricky assignment against Mayo.
Keegan and McCann, who formed the core of the Ballaghadereen 60x30 winning club side in June, have weaved their way through a very difficult side of the draw, which included the 2009 champions, Dublin, and 2010 victors Meath.
They looked unstoppable at times last weekend and led 13-3 in game two having already captured the first 21-12 over Cavan’s Michael Finnegan and Paul Brady.
Finnegan and Brady, who are feared by every side in the 40x20, showed they are a serious force in the traditional court and bounced back to win 21-16 with Finnegan executing lethal offensive corner kills from distance with regular occurrence.
The Westerners then regained control in the third and held their nerve at key moments, with McCann ending rallies to put scores on the board. Mayo finished out the third on the same scoreline as the first 21-12.
“Joe and I raced out of the blocks, as we won the first game pretty handy and we were striding towards the finish line in the second game when we had a pretty big blip,” said Keegan.
“We got in several times at 13-3 up and just didn't make a point. I think at that stage I started pushing too hard and didn't stay relaxed and I made more errors than I would have liked.
"Before we knew it Cavan had come back and the game turned in their favour.
“However in the dressing room after that game we just stayed relaxed as we both knew that if we just played our handball we would win and we were very calm and composed in the third.
"Joe played very well throughout but especially in the third and at vital stages, he punished every set up and made some top class retrieves to get us over the line,” said a delighted Keegan.
Kerry’s Maria Daly upset the odds in the ladies final having put her defeats to the hands of her doubles partner, Ashley Prendiville for the last two seasons behind her to come out on top for the first time in the softball singles.
Daly, who now has nine senior All-Irelands, which includes four 40x20 singles finished the contest in style with three off hand kill shots to edge Prendiville in two straight game 21-17, 21-16.