ALLEY CHAT with Antóin Ó Braoin
Juvenile Finals Showcase Stars Of The Future
The strength in depth of juvenile handball in Wexford was evident on Sunday last when the county boys and girls 40×20 singles finals took place in front of a packed arena at St. Josephs Handball Centre in Bishopswater. This was the first championship to be played under the new system approved by County Convention back in November and the three tier competition proved to be a resounding success for young players from all around the county. The success or otherwise of any competition structure can be measure in several different ways but the primary focus of ‘The Next Level’, the new plan for juvenile handball was, given the huge numbers now playing the game, to develop a championship structure that would cater for the different standards within the clubs and across the county. With 12 of the 14 clubs in the county involved in the finals the general consensus was that it had achieved its objective in this regard.
The day began well for the host club St. Josephs when seven year old Rory Dobbs showed terrific spirit to win the boys under 10 title. Taking on nine year old Jimmy Goggins, also from St. Josephs, he fought back well after losing the first game to eventually triumph 11-8 in a closely contested tie break. It was another all St. Josephs affair in the boys under 11 final where it took a brilliant performance from Mark Doyle to see off the stiff challenge posed by Robbie Hillis in two straight games. Mark is a great nephew of the late John Doyle, Trinity who enjoyed considerable All Ireland senior doubles success with the great John Ryan back in the 50s. St Josephs also dominated the boys under 12 championship which saw two of the brightest prospects in the game, Richard Lawlor and Diarmuid Moore clash in a titanic final. Richard dominated the early exchanges to build up a 11-0 lead but then Diarmuid took over and played inspired handball to pull back the deficit and lead 14-12. At that stage all of the momentum was with him but Richard is nothing if not resilient and in a welter of excitement he just edged home by the minimum margin of 15-14. After that scare he kept up the pressure to take the title in two straight games.
It was the turn of rival Wexford town club St. Mary’s to visit the winners enclosure in the under 13 final as last year’s Leinster under 12 singles champion Glen Murphy just got the better of recent UK Open winner Cian Kehoe, St. Josephs in a classic encounter before Todd Hynes added to the St. Mary’s tally by defeating Colm Parnell, Ballyhogue in the under 14 final. Recent rivalry between Patrick Boland, Templeudigan and Anthony Butler, Ballyhogue had favoured the latter but on this occasion it was Patrick who produced his best performance for quite some time to take the under 15 title in style and this was followed by another reverse for Ballyhogue when Liam Rossiter had to give best to Thomas Hall, Castlebridge in the under 16 decider. ‘Mossy’ who has captured a couple of All Ireland titles in recent years held the edge throughout for a deserved win. The under 17 championship went to Stevie Lawlor, Bridgetown who had too much experience for Darren Murphy, Kilmyshall, who nonetheless gave of his best throughout.
The girls under 10 final saw tots Jody Keeling and Ellie Murphy-O’Gorman, both from St. Josephs, serve up a thriller which went the way of Jody in two close games before Aoife O’Connor from St. Martins put the Piercestown club into the winners enclosure by defeating Shauna Owley, Coolgreany in a tiebreaker to secure the under 11 championship. St. Josephs were back on top again in the under 12 final courtesy of Alibeth Curran who confirmed recent superiority over Niamh Miller, Ballymitty in a hard fought match while Cliodhna O’Connell, Coolgreany lived up to her high ranking by winning the under 13 age group at the expense of a slow starting Ciara O’Connor, St. Martins.
Two Leinster champions from St. Josephs clashed in the under 14 final where Cora Doyle was pushed all the way by Emma Sweeney before edging home in the tiebreaker. This was a terrific battle all the way between two players who look destined to have a big future in the game. Holly Hynes who was recently crowned Glen Fuels Handballer of the Year showed why as she defeated Tara Doyle, St. Martins in the under 15 final and Roisin Walsh, St. Josephs who won the 2013 Leinster under 15 singles championship added to her winnings with a hard earned victory over Sarah O’Connor in the under 16 final.
A number of B championships were also decided last weekend and the results were as follows;
Girls u11 April Moran, Ballymitty beat Emma Phelan, St. Josephs
Girls u12 Lauren Mahon, St. Josephs beat Amy Barron, St. Josephs
Girls u13 Kate Barron, St. Josephs beat Hayley Bohanna, Ballymitty
Girls u14 Siobhan Elms, Templeudigan beat Andrea Carley, St. Josephs
Boys u10 Bobby Doyle, St. Josephs beat Conor Horan, Coolgreany
Boys u11 Ben Keeling, St. Josephs beat Conor Murphy, St. Josephs
Boys u12 Cian Byrne, Bridgetown beat Michael Gaynor, Ballymitty
Boys u13 Gavin Lawlor, Barntown beat Conor Kehoe, St. Josephs
Boys u14 Michael Curran, St. Josephs beat Robert Cogley, Ballymitty
Boys u15 Jason O’Neill, Templeudigan beat Jack Kendrick, Bridgetown
Boys u16 Daniel Kelly, Templeudigan beat Gavin Connolly, Templeudigan
Boys u11 Plate Rurdhán Redmond, Coolgreany beat Rory Devereux, St. Martins
Wexford and Wicklow Clash in Leinster Tests
The opening games in this year’s Leinster Juvenile championships took place at St. Josephs Handball Centre on Saturday last when Wexford faced neighbours Wicklow in four different age groups. The Garden county came with hopes of causing an upset or two but they had to wait until the last game of the day before gaining their solitary victory. The day began in terrific fashion for Wexford when Richard Lawlor opened his intercounty career with a hugely impressive 15-0, 15-1 win over Jake O’Kelly in the under 12 singles and this was followed by a very polished display from Todd Hynes at under 14 singles as he proved far too strong for Ross Paterson as he coasted to a 15-1, 15-0 victory. The Wicklow challenge to Daniel Kavanagh at under 16 singles failed to materialise when Conor Hill-Doyle conceded a walkover before the visitors claimed their only win of the day at under 17 singles when Aaron Paterson overcame the loss of the opening game against Wexford’s Stevie Lawlor before recovering to win 19-21, 21-8, 11-0. A large contingent of Wexford players now head for Coolboy in Wicklow next Saturday where they will face opposition from Carlow, Dublin and Louth as they seek a place in the provincial finals.
Buggy and Hynes are Leinster Over 35 Champions
Gavin Buggy and Tommy Hynes warmed up for their Leinster senior doubles final against Meath at Ballymore Eustace, Kildare tomorrow (Wednesday) night by winning the provincial Over 35 Doubles championship at St. Josephs on Saturday last. It was exhibition stuff at the Wexford venue as Ian Griffin and Adrian Benson, Dublin were put to the sword throughout an entertaining encounter which ended with the Wexford boys winning by a facile 21-5, 21-9. The metropolitans came with hopes of causing an upset but this was never going to happen as the combination were outgunned throughout in a match punctuated by some ferocious power hitting from Hynes. Gavin Buggy had earlier taken the Over 35 singles title at Leixlip on Wednesday as he comprehensively hammered the aforementioned Adrian Benson 21-2, 21-4 and that kind of form and much more will be needed on Wednesday when they face the might of Tom Sheridan and Brian Carroll, Meath in the blue riband of 40×20 handball.
Elsewhere it was a fine week for Wexford players throughout Leinster as Jason Murphy captured the junior B singles title with an outstanding 11-21, 21-9, 21-15 win against favourite Ger Anthony, Kilkenny in the final played at Tinryland on Wednesday while an incredible comeback from 13-20 down in the deciding third game against Daniel Fenlon and Ollie Ryan, Carlow saw Darren O’Toole and Robert Byrne qualify for the junior doubles decider. By contrast it was a heart-breaking Wednesday for Barry McWilliams who served for the Leinster over 35 B singles title three times at Ballymore Eustace before going down 21-12, 7-21, 21-20 to Conor O’Connor, Meath.
Search For Officials Goes On
Monday, March 3rd has taken on a huge significance for the clubs of Wexford as that night’s County Committee meeting will seek to fill several positions which have remained vacant since November’s County Convention. Acting County Secretary Tony Breen has made it clear that he will step down unless these positions are filled that night and so far few have raised their head above the parapet. The vacant positions are County Secretary, County Treasurer, County PRO, County GAA Board delegate as well as Chairman and Secretary of the new Juvenile Committee. With clubs reporting huge increases in membership the workload on county board officials has increased immeasurably as a result of catering for the demand but unfortunately it has not resulted in additional volunteers coming forward to share this work. At a time when handball has never been in such a healthy state throughout the county, it will be a very retrograde step for the sport if next month’s County Committee meeting should result in a constitutional crises. County Chairman Tom Rossiter highlighted the issue again at last Sunday’s county juvenile finals “it’s time for new people to come forward” he said “a small number of people are doing all the work and it’s time for change”. He implored clubs to answer the call.