ALLEY CHAT with Antóin Ó Braoin
SHOW OF FORCE BY WEXFORD JUVENILE HANDBALLERS
The high expectations surrounding the current crop of young players in the county was fully vindicated last Saturday at Coolboy in Wicklow when the semi-finals of the provincial juvenile boys and girls championships were held. Pitted against the best that Carlow, Dublin Louth and Wicklow had to offer, the Slaneysiders came away with eight excellent victories which left the other four counties with a meagre four wins between them. When earlier results are taken into consideration Wexford’s young stars will now contest 16 of the 24 finals next weekend against those who come through the other side of the draw involving Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois Meath and Westmeath. That semi-finals also took place last weekend but the winners were not known at the time of going to press. What is certain however is that a glut of Wexford v Kilkenny deciders will have emerged as the two superpowers of Leinster juvenile handball dominate their sides of the draw as usual.
The highly rated Richard Lawlor got Wexford off to a flying start at under 12 singles when he imposed himself on Sean Windsor, Dublin right from the off to take the opening game without the concession of a single point and while he had to battle a little harder in the second, he was never in the slightest danger of defeat as he coasted to a 15-0, 15-6 victory. The second instalment of under 12 talent took the court for the doubles, also against Dublin and once again it was the silken skills of Diarmuid Moore and Josh Kavanagh that impressed as they coasted to a hugely impressive 15-3, 15-1 win. This trio are arguably the best ever squad to represent the county at this under 12 entry age level and all three appear destined for a bright future.
It was success all the way at under 13 as well, with Richie Browne putting on a brilliant display to overcome Stephen Jordan, Dublin 15-7, 15-4 in the singles while Cian Kehoe and Josh McMahon were equally impressive in defeating Cormac O’Brien and Eoin Hosey, Carlow, 15-13, 15-6 in the doubles. The opening game was vital here but once the Wexford boys secured it, the rest was plain sailing.
The 100% success rate was maintained at under 14 when the talented Todd Hynes proved far too good for Dinny Farrell, Carlow in the singles, with his winning margin of 15-4, 15-5 accurately reflecting his superiority and then Colm Parnell and Ciaran Power kept up the onslaught by beating Sean Flanagan and Hugh Prendergast, Dublin 15-2, 15-13 in the doubles. They did have a slight scare in that second game but were worthy winners.
The Model county suffered its first reverse of the day at under 15 singles when Adam Walsh found last year’s under 14 runner up Ben Devlin, Louth too hot to handle and went down 15-1, 15-6 but the equilibrium was restored at under 15 doubles when Patrick Boland and Anthony Butler proved far too strong for Aaron Dolly and Thomas Leen, Dublin as they coasted to an emphatic 15-0, 15-1 win.
It was again a case of by how much at under 16 singles when Daniel Kavanagh enhanced his growing reputation with a 21-6, 21-2 win over Mark McCullough, Louth, but Thomas Hall and Liam Rossiter underperformed considerably against Ciaran Flanagan and Michael Varley, Dublin in under 16 doubles and were defeated on a scoreline of 21-16, 21-11. Darren Murphy and Conor Nolan played well for long periods against Killian Prendergast and Eoghan Flanagan, Dublin at under 17 doubles, but lack of intercounty experience told against them in the end as they went out by 21-10, 21-16.
Some of the girls were also in action at the Wicklow venue and Maxine Byrne got her intercounty career off to a winning start when she saw off the challenge of Aishling Curry in under 12 singles, where her winning margin of 15-6, 15-3 gave her a day to remember. It was followed by a rousing 15-11, 15-9 win for Ciara O’Connor and Leanne Boland over Sinead Hayden and Laura Donovan, Carlow in under 13 doubles, with the Wexford girls having to dig deep for the deserved victory. The last girls tie of the day resulted for defeat for Courtney Browne at under 17 singles when she found hot favourite Meabhdh Ni Dhalaigh, Dublin a step too far as she went down 21-8, 21-4
The will be joined in next weekend’s finals by the following girls who qualified earlier;
Girls under 12 doubles Alibeth Curran and Niamh Miller
Girls under 13 singles Cliodhna O’Connell
Girls under 14 singles Cora Doyle
Girls under 14 doubles Emma Sweeney and Eve Creane
Girls under 15 singles Tara Doyle
Girls under 15 doubles Lauren Flanagan and Siobhan Elms
Girls under 16 doubles Roisin Walsh and Holly Hynes
Buggy Bids For Place In All Ireland Final
He’s been the most successful Wexford player in recent years and on Saturday next at Coolgreany Gavin Buggy bids to extend that further when he faces Ricky McCann, Antrim in the All Ireland Over 35 ‘A’ singles semi-final. This will represent a huge task for Buggy as the Ulster champion is highly rated throughout the sport and at 12 is ranked quite a few places above the Wexfordman who comes in at 20. To be at 12 in today’s handball world full of outstanding players will make McCann the clear favourite but Buggy is nothing if not resilient and if he can overcome his worrying tendency to start slowly, he can cause enough problems for the flashy but immensely talented northerner. Also on the programme which starts at 3pm will be the junior singles tie between Jerome Willoughby (of Willoughby Brothers fame) and Ryan Daly, Tyrone. Willoughby can do more than sing though as Daly is likely to find out here.
A second All Ireland semi-final programme goes ahead at Horeswood where Benny Doyle and Mick Armstrong will be in action. Doyle takes on Thomas Maguire, Antrim in the Emerald Masters ‘A’ singles and will be expected to advance while Mick Armstrong will hope to take another step towards that elusive All Ireland final when he plays Kevin McParland, Antrim in the Silver Masters ‘B’ singles. The action starts at 3pm and a Wexford double could be on the cards.
A trip to Kingscourt on Saturday faces Jason Murphy following his brilliant success in the Leinster Junior ‘B’ singles last week. He takes on Cormac McMahon, Cavan and will only have to maintain that kind of form to be in with great change of making the final.
Leinster Double For Wexford Players
A magnificent fight back by Robert Doyle and Phil Coleman secured the provincial Silver Masters ‘B’ doubles title at Tinryland on Thursday last when they overcame a first game loss to James Travers and Kevin Kelly, Kildare before claiming victory. A nail biting opening game went the way of the Lilywhites by the minimum margin of 21-20 but the Slaneysiders raised their game thereafter to roar home by a facile 21-3, 21-5. Doyle, who came in for the injured Mick Armstrong a few weeks ago has proved an ideal partner for the combative Coleman and they now look forward to a serious crack at the All Ireland title. Also victorious on the same night at Ballymore Eustace were Richie Culleton and John Bail in Golden Masters ‘B’ doubles who came through a real cliff hanger against Westmeath’s Andy Mulligan and Brendan Heaton to triumph 21-10, 12-21, 21-18. They now hope to improve on last year’s achievement when they lost out in the All Ireland semi-final.