Defending champions and No 1 seeds, Cavan stars Paul Brady and Michael Finnegan (both Kingscourt), have successfully retained their GAA/O'Neill's All-Ireland (40x20) Championships Men's Open Senior Doubles title.
The Cavan duo defeated Meath aces and No 2 seeds Tom Sheridan and Brian Carroll (both Kells) in a thrilling final clash, over three games, at Cappagh, Co Limerick on Saturday.
Brady and Finnegan claimed an amazing third consecutive Men's Open Senior Doubles title in the process and an incredible eighth crown overall, but were forced to pull out all the stops to overcome a stern challenge from a resilient Sheridan and Carroll.
The Kells pair were bidding for their first Men's Open Senior Doubles title of these Championships.
Although the Cavan duo were the hot pre-match favourites to add yet another title to their illustrious list, the Meath pairing tore-up the formbook and came within a whisker of causing a major upset.
In the first game, Sheridan and Carroll were well in control throughout, displaying their full array of pinpoint kill shots and smooth passing shots, allied to some explosive serving.
Despite some stern resistence from Brady and Finnegan, who were momentarily overwhelmed, the Meath duo surged ahead to close out on a decisive scoreline of 9-21.
In the second game, the score was level at 11-11, following a
half-hour of frenzied action. But then Brady hit his stride, and
assisted by his trademark power serve, the Cavan duo unleashed a series of stinging kill shots and expertly-placed passing shots.
Sheridan and Carroll had no answers to this dazzling onslaught, as the Cavan duo forged ahead to close out on a decisive scoreline of 21-11.
The third game proved to be a thriller, with the capacity crowd on tenterhooks, right to the finish. Sheridan and Carroll started brightly, surging into a commanding 1-6 lead, before Brady and Finnegan drew level at 8-8.
Sheridan and Carroll then clicked into top gear, hitting a purple patch and forging ahead into commanding leads of firstly 8-12 and then 8-15.
Brady and Finnegan's response was immediate as they began to produce their own armoury of lethal kill shots, and silken passing shots, allied to their trademark rocket-like serves. They pointed six times in succession to narrow the gap to 14-15.
But, incredibly, there was a further twist to the tale as Sheridan and Carroll replied with five consecutive points, and Brady and Finnegan could only muster a single point, to make it 15-20 for the Royal pairing.
However, Brady and Finnegan were not to be thwarted as they pointed four times in-a-row, including a spectacular long-range corner kill shot from Finnegan, to narrow the gap to 19-20.
Sheridan and Carroll then regained serve, but could not engineer the vital winning point, as the Breffni maestros edged tenaciously ahead, reeling-off two points, to close out, on a slender scoreline of 21-20 and seal a deserved victory.
Meanwhile, in the Minor Doubles final at the same venue, young Clare aces, Colin Crehan (Kilkishen) and Niall Bolton (Tulla), defeated young Tyrone aces, Pol Clarke and Gabhainn McCrystal (both Brackey), in another cracking contest, over three games.
Crehan and Bolton took the first game, on a decisive scoreline of 21-12, before Clarke and McCrystal replied, by taking the second game on a narrow scoreline of 17-21.
The third game proved to be much tighter, with the score level numerous times, before Crehan and Bolton edged through, clinching it on a slender scoreline of 21-20, to secure a deserved win.
Finally, in the Women's Open Senior Singles final at the same venue, Antrim star and eight-times previous winner Fiona Shannon (St Paul's, Belfast), defeated defending champion and No 1 seed, Kerry starlet Maria Daly (Ballymacelligott), in a hard-fought encounter, over two games.
In the first game, Daly, who was bidding for a third consecutive
title, opened up a commanding 1-8 lead, before Shannon drew level at 10-10. Shannon then hit her stride, as she surged ahead, to close out, on a decisive scoreline of 21-14.
In the second game, Shannon began explosively, as she stormed into a commanding 15-4 lead.
However, Daly responded magnificently and closed the gap, firstly 19-15 and then 20-16.
Daly mustered one more point, but Shannon had more reserves left in the tank, as she clinched the vital winning point , to seal a deserved victory and title number nine.