THE STAGE IS set for the semi-finals of the Men’s Open Singles at the World Handball Championships and things haven’t gone exactly according to script.
Three of the top four seeds – Paul Brady, Luis Moreno and Robbie McCarthy – have advanced to the penultimate stage, but Michael Finnegan has gate-crashed the party after he sensationally knocked out Seattle’s Sean Lenning yesterday morning.
The Kingscourt man proved that result was no fluke when he followed up with a mightily-impressive win over top Californian Naty Alvarado yesterday evening but he faces a tough test in the first of tonight’s semi-finals against the reigning champion.
The pair have been doubles partners for over a decade and train together. Their knowledge of each other’s games, gained in hundreds of sparring sessions over the years, is flawless. Will that make for an epic?
We think not. Yes, Finnegan was awesome yesterday while Brady laboured a little against Killian Carroll and Luis Cordova but the champion can time his performances to peak seemingly to the hour.
He’ll up it tonight and his opponent’s 36-year-old legs could struggle to cope with the pace the Gunner will bring.
With the doubles assault to begin on Wednesday, Finnegan may decide not toover-exert himself and a comfortable straight games Brady win seems inevitable. The other semi-final, meanwhile, could be the match of the tournament. Young Arizona gunslinger Moreno is in magnificent form and has upped his game considerably for this event, as he showed when easing past Charly Shanks – finalist in the US Nationals in LA just six months ago – and New York’s Tyree Bastidas yesterday.
He is smooth and relaxed yet creates a sonic boom when he strikes the ball; he will need to be doing it well, however, if he is to see off McCarthy.
The Mullingar man — a friend and neighbour of Olympic silver medallist John Joe Nevin – struggled to put away the dogged Eoin Kennedy in last night’s quarter-final, which went to a tiebreaker, but he has plenty of fire power of his own. McCarthy needs his serve to be “on” if he is to beat Moreno, who has the advantage of having beaten the Irishman before in the US Nationals U19 final some years ago.
It was noticeable that he needed a couple of chances to put the ball away against Kennedy and he won’t be afforded that tonight. If he’s on song and finds his range with the serve, he’s got a massive chance but the suspicion is that Moreno – who has looked impressively composed and focused when we’ve spotted him around the arena this week – has the edge this time around.
Brady approx 21-12, 21-7
Moreno approx 21-11, 21-19