Two hours, two players, one ball and agonisingly just one point short of winning his first 40×20 All-Ireland Senior title for Clann Éireann’s Charly Shanks.
Handball players and fans from throughout the county travelled to Kingscourt, Co. Cavan last Saturday evening to support the greatest 40×20 player never to capture an All-Ireland Senior title, yet. Ulster Champion, Charly Shanks began the match against Robbie McCarthy (Westmeath) as he finished off his semi-final – he was in devastating form and looked well on his way to collect his maiden title, claiming the first game 21-13. The 2014 All-Ireland Champion was not so willing to relinquish his title without a battle and played a much smarter game in the second, leaving the Orchard star on the back foot to force a third game. The short time between games two and three appeared to have been better spent by the talented Shanks as he began replicating game one, going into an early 12-4 lead to the delight of the vocal orange support. Charly lead at 15-10, 18-13 and at ‘match point’ the Mullingar man returned the serve with a killshot. ‘I had my chance at 20-17 for the match and I just didn’t execute the shot. That was down to just tightening up that little bit towards the end of the third game. The pressure was immense’ remarked Shanks on his second match point. McCarthy never panicked and after regaining serve, he never came out of the service box and retained his All-Ireland crown on the narrowest of margins 21-20. McCarthy now also has the honour of captaining the Irish team for the World Championships. ‘It’s definitely the toughest loss I’ve ever had to take, having been so far in front and with so much at stake. But that’s sport at its cruellest. With so much effort, commitment and sacrifice required, a loss like that and you lose heart.’ It has been more than a decade since the All-Ireland title was decided by a solitary score, on that occasion the silver medalist was none other than Paul Brady who this summer will compete for his fifth consecutive World Title – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Shanks, aged 32 commented: ‘It’s easy to go off and call it a day and those thoughts did enter my head in the immediate aftermath. But that’d be the easy thing to do. I’ll take a few days off to reflect on the match, plan what’s next and then I’ll pick myself up and get back at it. The alternative isn’t for me.’