Irish players have dominated their American counterparts at the Simple Green US Open of Handball at the Los Caballeros Sports Village in Fountain Valley, California.
With the final opponents in all the brackets decided, Ireland are on course to collect the two major Men’s Open categories with the most sought after title, the men’s open singles gong a certainty.
Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy and Armagh’s Charlie Shanks have stunned the elite players on the US tour with startling performances to set up an all-Irish final for the first time in the history of the event.
Belfast’s Aisling Reilly lost out to Megan Mehilos of Lombard, Illinois as she was bidding for two in a row in the US Ladies’ Open title, falling by 11-3 in the tie-break to the impressive rising young star of US handball.
All-Ireland senior doubles champions, Cavan’s Paul Brady and Michael Finnegan, meanwhile claimed the Men’s US Open doubles crown after defeating reigning champions and number one seeds, Marcos Chavez and Vince Munoz from Buena Park, California, by 21-17, 21-14 in the final on Sunday night.
Irish Nationals champion, 23-year-old McCarthy, has looked very comfortable back in the small international court, defeating USA number one and two players, Seattle’s Sean Lenning and California’s Naty Alvarado respectively to advance to the final showdown with New York based Shanks.
The Mullingar man has raised his game to another level inside the past year and looks unstoppable right now. A highly regimented training schedule combined with a natural confidence and an abundance of raw talent has brought McCarthy to within one match of becoming the third Irish player in history to win the US Open title.
Cavan’s Brady and Cork’s Tony Healy have enjoyed such success in recent years and McCarthy is in pole position to do likewise. He has shown the composure of an experienced veteran at this event and he will be relishing the task in hand. McCarthy has been emphatic in his disposal of the top US pros en route to the decider.
Alvarado managed to secure the biggest tally of 15 in game two against McCarthy in the semis. A win over Shanks would complete a phenomenal year for the Westmeath man who has already amassed the Irish Nationals in the 40x20 last May, the senior hardball title in June and the senior softball medal last month.
Lurgan born Shanks has been a more regular visitor to these events in the States and just two weeks ago he bowed out against Alvarado in the quarter finals by 11-10 in the tiebreak.
He may not have been as mesmerising as McCarthy in his play but the manner of his wins over last year’s winner, Texan Alan Garner, in the quarters (8-21, 21-14, 11-2) and Louis Moreno (Tucson) in the semis (14-21, 21-11, 11-9) has shown an eye-catching winning mentality.
The man from the Orchard County has experienced narrow defeats in tiebreakers across the Atlantic with regular occurrence up until now but that has changed over the weekend. He has exhibited the character of a champion to bounce back from first game losses to both these highly gifted stars on the USA circuit.
Shanks said: “I’ve had two tough matches against Garner and Moreno, but thank God I'm starting to come out the right side of tie breakers over here in the States.
"Both these players beat me in tie breakers in our last meetings and then I lost out to Naty (Alvarado) just two weeks ago 11-10 in Idaho. I feel I'm playing better with each match so hopefully that trend continues for the final.”
A mouth watering clash is anticipated with an Irish winner’s name guaranteed to be inscribed on the 2011 US Open trophy.
Antrim’s Aisling Reilly has impressed once again as she has cruised to another showdown.
The modest woman from the St. Paul’s club in Belfast has all the tools to rule her opponent Mehilos and retain the title.
“This is the first time I've played competitively in eight months due to an injury so I was just coming to the US Open to test the water and enjoy being back on the court again. Getting back into the final was obviously great and while I'm really disappointed to have lost out, I know that I am back on track again,” said Reilly.