Roscommon Handball players won seven Connacht titles over the weekend and there were a number of County Finals and All-Ireland games up for decision. Aengus Cunningham rounds-up the action.
Connacht 40×20 Emerald Masters Final
Ger Walshe put in a very decisive performance in the beautiful new court in Collooney, Co. Sligo last Friday, when he comfortably beat Mayo’s Michael Heraty 21-7, 21-8 to win the 40×20 Emerald Masters Connacht final. Remarkably both players attended the Marist College, Athlone way back in their school days but in this match Ger gave the Mayo man a lesson in hard-hitting aggressive handball.
Connacht 40×20 Over 35 ‘B’ Final
Denis Creaton had a busy weekend. The day after winning the County Junior Doubles title, he travelled to Kiltimagh to take on Sligo’s Michael Browne in their Over 35 ‘B’ Connacht Final. Denis was much too experienced for his opponent and won comfortably 21-9, 21-6. In this grade Denis certainly is good enough to be contending for the All-Ireland.
Connacht 40×20 Juvenile ‘A’ Finals
The Roscommon Handball representatives had a superb day in the 40×20 Juvenile ‘A’ Connacht Finals held in St Comans last Sunday, winning all five of the grades they contested.
Despite being the youngest players of the day U12 Doubles Rory Carthy and Irslam Yakhyaev put in a remarkably mature performance against Moycullen’s Sean Stafford and Paraic McNeela when coming from a 14-8 deficit in the first game to win spectacularly 15-14. Rory’s volleying and Irslam’s killing after a very sluggish start turned the game around and shocked their fancied Galway opponents so much the St. Coman’s youngsters took the second by the far more decisive score of 15-4.
Carragh Kennedy kept up the Roscommon trend of winning after a slow start when in her Girls U13 Singles she came from 0-8 down in the first to beat Mayo’s tough Lucy Brennan 15-11. It was only when Carragh started playing aggressively and using her power that she started making inroads and although the Kiltimagh girl tried hard Carragh always looked the more likely winner and she took the second 15-9.
The hard-hitting U14 Doubles of Philip Halliday and Eanna Moran put in a superb performance to completely dominate Galway’s Darragh Kyne and Paul Kearns. Having surprisingly lost to Galway opposition at the same stage for the last two years this promising pair decided enough was enough and blasted their way to a huge 13-0 lead in the first before finishing it 15-6. They continued in the same vein in the second and looked very impressive taking it 15-4.
Shauna Clogher kept her cool in her Girls U15 Singles match-up with Galway’s Aoife Nic Dhonnacha to eventually win a tight first game 15-12. Shauna took a while to use her excellent power and at times could have moved her feet quicker, but her calm temperament stood her in good stead and once she took over there was only going to be one winner. She easily won the second 15-3.
The U16 Doubles of Dylan Hanley and Magomed Yakhyaev had what could be considered a rather fortunate win against Galway’s Enda Collins and James Cummins. Despite having very little work done together the Roscommon lads took the first 21-13 but weren’t impressive. The Galway lads improved considerably in the second and won comfortably 21-9. At this stage it didn’t look too good for the St. Coman’s pair and even at the start of the tie-breaker the Galway lads were far more impressive, but just when it was required the home lads finally took the initiative and Mog killed three beauties to finish it off 11-7.
Roscommon 40×20 Junior Doubles Final
Lisacul’s Sean Jennings and Denis Creaton defeated St. Coman’s Oisin Naughton and Darren Beatty in the 40×20 Junior Doubles county final held in St. Comans last Friday night. As expected this was a fiercely contested affair which took close to two hours to complete and almost inevitably went to the third game.
In the first the local lads started quickly, with Darren killing the ball spectacularly at every opportunity and Oisin covering every inch of the court. While Sean was rock solid throughout it took his partner Denis a long time to get into the match. The town lads led 15-8, before being drawn back to 15-15. The game seemed to take forever to finish, with eight hands from both teams being served for no score at 19-20. Eventually the St. Coman’s duo managed to scrape the first 21-19.
Although the mid-Roscommon pair started the second well, the very experienced Lisacul lads took control soon after. By the middle of the game Denis finally hit his groove and they shot into a 20-13 lead. At this stage Darren switched to the left and with the extra shots he was playing he hit a series of kills that gave them a glimmer of hope of an unlikely comeback, but it was not to be and the West Roscommon duo took it to a third with a 21-17 win.
The final stanza was a complete contrast to the first two as the Lisacul lads took control straight away and never relinquished it. The St. Comans pair seemed a little rattled and never really got going and lost decisively 21-3.
40×20 Juvenile ‘B’ County Finals
While there were a decent number of entries in the 40×20 Juvenile ‘B’ county championships, only four matches were required to narrow down those going forward to the Connachts. Eoghan Carthy was a very impressive winner of the U11 singles. He beat Cloonfad’s Cillian Killinarney comfortably in two games. In the U12 singles Lisacul’s Evan Corrigan emerged victorious. He showed a cool head to come from a game down against St. Coman’s Isidro da Silva in their semi-final before beating Robert Heneghan in the final. Robert had beaten Lisacul’s Kevin Doherty in his semi-final.
40×20 3rd Level Colleges
Fiona Tully’s old doubles partner Caoimhe Shanagher has returned to handball since starting college in NUIG. A recurring injury had seemed to stall a promising career, but Caoimhe seems to have overcome this problem and had a very good win in the 3rd Level Colleges Ladies ‘B’ event held in Kingscourt, Co. Cavan recently. In her quarter-final she beat Trinity’s Roisin Meehan 21-2, 21-2. In her semi she beat Niamh Farrell of DCU 21-2, 21-7 and overcame her college team mate Shona Ruane 21-4, 21-11 in the final.
All-Ireland 40×20 Ladies Open
Fiona Tully had an excellent win in her first ever Ladies Open quarter-final as she defeated Kilkenny’s super-fit Ciara Mahon in Curraghboy last Saturday. This was a hugely impressive win for Fiona over an opponent who had defeated her decisively only a matter of weeks ago in the ‘She’s Ace’ tournament.
The first game saw Fiona at her very best as she destroyed her very experienced opponent 21-5. It was a top-class display of skillful, ruthless handball and there was very little the Kilkenny girl could do about it.
The second was much closer with Mahon’s very accurate serving straight down the left wall causing Fiona some problems. Ciara also began reading Fiona’s kill attempts and showed superb speed and picking ability to make life much tougher on the Roscommon star. Scores were tied on no less than eight occasions before Fiona eventually made good use of the wraparound shot to finish the game 21-18.
Her semi-final opponent is none other than Cork’s Catriona Casey, the premier female player in world handball. It’s a big ask for someone as young as Fiona to beat her, but she has the game to give any player problems.
Fiona had only defeated Galway’s Roisin Ní Chonghaile in the Intermediate Connacht final on Thursday evening in Ballaghaderreen. The timing could have turned this into a potential banana skin, but the St. Coman’s girl won easily, 21-2, 21-10.
All-Ireland 40×20 Mens Open
Rikki O’Gara came up against one of the red hot players in the game at the moment when he met Moycullen’s Martin Mulkerrins in the second round of the 40×20 Mens Opens last Saturday. Played in the picturesque village of Aughagower, Co. Mayo, the Galway man was in superb form and controlled the match from the start with superb serving and non-stop killing. As quick as Rikki is, Martin is one of the cleanest killers in the game and on this day there was just no picking the majority of his efforts. In true O’Gara form Rikki never stopped trying but was beaten decisively 21-7, 21-13.