Three Roscommon Handball Players have reached All-Ireland Finals over the past few days and Aengus Cunningham reports on the action.
All-Ireland Minor Ladies 40×20 Semi-final
Proving that she learned vital lessons from her recent loss in the All-Ireland colleges final, St. Coman’s Fiona Tully gave probably the performance of her career when she won a fantastic match in her All-Ireland Minor semi-final encounter with old rival Niamh Coleman of Armagh.
This was a match that will long be remembered by those who were present to see it in Beragh, Co. Tyrone last Sunday afternoon. Both players played superbly throughout in an intriguing match-up that pitted Fiona’s skill and finesse versus Coleman’s athleticism and power. The first was point for point up until the Armagh girl went 10-9 up. At this point Fiona went on one of her patented hot streaks and with some outstanding ‘crack’ serving and ruthless killing she took an 18-10 lead in the one service visit, which was too much for Niamh to recover from, Fiona running out a 21-11 winner.
The second opened with some brilliant power serving from Coleman as she raced into an 8-0 lead. Slowly, Fiona got to grips with the serve and it was also obvious her roof game was causing problems and despite the deficit she maintained her composure and managed to draw level at 10, before going 14-10 down. Once again though, Fiona really showed her class with some wonderful all-round play that gave her a 19-16 lead and though she failed to finish it on her next three service visits, Coleman also failed to score on hers and finally a pinpoint serve gave Fiona the 20th point and then a clever wraparound back-wall shot, when a kill attempt was expected gave her a thoroughly deserved victory.
All-Ireland 40×20 Emerald Masters Semi-final
Having beaten Sligo’s Francie McCann in the Connacht final, Curraghboy’s Ger Walshe proved it was no fluke with an excellent victory in his Emerald Masters All-Ireland semi-final against Antrim’s Thomas Maguire held in St. Coman’s last Saturday afternoon.
Maguire’s unorthodox ‘paddle’ shots and remarkable agility for someone his age have taken him to a number of overage titles in the last few years, but on this day he came up against a player at the top of his game, who just refused to be denied.
The first was quite tight and hard-fought, but Magure held sway for the majority of it, but when he failed to finish at 20-16 up, Ger showed commendable coolness by racking up five quick points to take a one-point win.
Obviously annoyed by his failure to finish the first, the Belfast native upped the pace even more in the second and although Ger battled hard, the second went Maguire’s way 21-15.
The third seemed set for another long slog, but having gone 3-1 down, Ger played some superb handball, serving, roofing and killing with clinical precision. Remarkably, he ended up with a 14-3 lead before Maguire finally managed to score a handout, but by then the writing was on the wall and Ger made no mistake taking the third 21-4 for an unexpected but utterly convincing win.
All-Ireland Ladies Junior ‘B’ 40×20 Semi-final
St. Coman’s Aoife McDonagh looks like a person on a mission in her bid to win the Ladies Junior ‘B’ All-Ireland title. Following a strict training regime for almost a year now, her fitness is at an all-time peak and her all-round handball game has improved dramatically.
Facing the Ulster champion from Monaghan, Niamh Fallon, in their All-Ireland semi-final last Saturday, Aoife dominated the match throughout, hitting the ball with much more authority than her opponent and showing some very impressive touches in the front court. Aoife won the first 21-6 and although her concentration dipped for a while in the second, once she settled again there was never any doubt about the outcome and she eventually took it 21-13.
All-Ireland Under 16 Doubles 40×20 Semi-Final
Dylan Hanley and Gareth Delaney put in a disappointing performance in their U16 All-Ireland semi-final when they were comprehensively defeated by Tyrone’s excellent Lorcan McBride and Cormac Monroe. The Carrickmore lads were playing in their home alley and made it count by tearing into an instant lead and never relenting. Although the Roscommon pair improved in the second they were never really in the match, losing 21-3, 21-8.
Connacht Juvenile ‘B’ 40×20 Semi-Finals
Roscommon had two representative in the Juvenile ‘B’ Connacht semi-finals held in Aughagower, Co. Mayo last Saturday.
In the Boys U11 grade 10 year old Rory Carthy and 9 year old Irslam Yakhyaev put in a hugely impressive display when they beat what looked like a decent Mayo pairing of Darragh Sweeney and Alan Gilmartin 15-3, 15-0. The scoreline doesn’t give a true reflection of how good the exchanges were in the first game, where the Roscommon pair’s solidity and hard-hitting always seemed to come out on top. The second was all about serving though, with both Roscommon lads following instructions to a tee to win much easier than expected.
Carragh Kennedy won her Girls U12 singles match with Mayo’s Amy Mahon, but not without a some nervous moments. Carragh was by far the better player in the first, using a cross-court serve into the back left corner to great effect, but in the second she stopped using her power and inadvertently made a match out of it. The Mayo girl dragged herself back into it and very nearly took the second before Carragh finished it 15-6, 15-13.