TUCSON -- Ireland's Martin Mulkerrins has been a force on the national handball scene, both in Ireland and in the U.S. The Galway product reached the last two USHA Nationals (2018, 2019) finals only to face disappointment, but in the Tucson Memorial & WPH R48Pro IX Stop final, Mulkerrins defeated Sean Lenning, 15-9, 15-6 for his first R48Pro title.
"I was thankful to get out of here with the result." said Mulkerrins. "It's taken a lot of losses...I made the conscious decision to stay away from the roof [ceiling] shots."
Joining Paul Brady as only the second qualifier to win an R48Pro title, Mulkerrins was ready for the physical test and extra matches.
"It's extra court time, but it worked out this week. I've trained very hard the last few weeks and was preparing for six matches." Mulkerrins admitted. "It's tough but we were ready for it."
Going into Sunday's final, the opponents were even with two match wins apiece. Lenning, the defending Tucson Memorial champ, looked nothing short of outstanding leading up to his final bid to repeat, but Mulkerrins was too strong through two dominant games.
The two traded early points, but Mulkerrins pulled away with a few service aces and grinding out tough points keeping the ball in play to build a 9-3 lead. Lenning answered, shooting from everywhere to make a 6-1 scoring run. Mulkerrins didn't fold to the pressure and despite a late double fault, scored the remaining five points for the game one victory.
In the second, Mulkerrins kept up the same tempo, keeping rallies going and taking high-percentage shots to win the second game by a nine-point margin.
Fink wins SR48Pro
In the day's first big final, David Fink and Marcos Chavez mixed it up in the Men's Senior R48Pro final. This was the seventh consecutive meeting for the two Masters eligible top-8 pros with Fink winning five of the last six contests. Fink shook off a first-game defeat for stop Chavez in the tiebreaker winning (10-15), 15-10, 15-8.
Chavez started the morning on fire, shooting everything in front of a frustrated Fink en route to a five-point win.
While Fink showed exceptionally physical conditioning, he displayed tremendous mental toughness to come back in the second game winning by the same score. In the third frame, Fink was rolling, and Chavez was showing some signs of wear. In a late rally, the two opponents traded dives in the front court--Fink making another amazing get to end the rally. That momentum carried through to match point for Fink. At match point, Chavez went for a kill to get the side out, but it came up just short, resulting in another title for Fink.
“Even at 14-5, I wasn’t comfortable,” Fink admitted. “I knew Marcos could still make a run. I am really excited to win this one.”
Casey rolls to 19th W48Pro win
Catriona Casey looked as dominant as ever throughout the weekend and the final defeating Ciana Ni Churraoin, 15-4, 15-2.
Ni Churraoin looked impressive leading up to the final, but Casey played virtually mistake-free handball, making her opponent pay for any hand-errors or miss-hits. Ni Churraoin delivered some impressive ace serves in the second game, but that provided little defense against Casey's onslaught. Ceiling shots, passes and kills, Casey executed each with precision.
“Every tournament I play I want to win.” Casey admitted. "The two that I lost, I remember those."
"Ciana was hitting some good shots." said Casey, "I served a couple of times at game point. She's going to keep fighting. We saw that she's capable of coming back."
Casey relished the win and will look forward to the next two stops.
See the draws and final results at The Memorial's R2sports site HERE.
Watch replay at WatchESPN.com or on the Watch ESPN App (iPhone or Android).
Read the World Pro Handball's event wrap-up HERE.
On Saturday evening, the WPH recognized Jeff Healam with the WPH Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Jeff has been one of the WPH’s greatest supporters since the WPH relocated to Tucson in 2009,” stated WPH Development Director David Fink. Fink and WPH Board Member Scott Cleveland presented the award to Healam on the show court next to the iconic Tucson Memorial Trophy.