Moycullen handballers made history when they claimed the premier title for the first time as the 2019 GAA Handball season came to a close on Saturday.
Moycullen defeated the much-fancied and pre-match favourites, Kells (Meath ) in the senior open grade final by 66-57 in the 4-wall interclub All-Ireland Championships in Multyfarnham and Mullingar.
In the first semi-final, played in Mullingar, Kells convincingly defeated Mallow of Cork. In the second semi-final, played in Multyfarnham, Moycullen overcame St Paul’s of Antrim to set up a final encounter with the vastly experienced and well decorated Meath team.
Competing in the senior grade for the first time in the club’s history, having won the junior club title last year, few gave the Moycullen team a chance. However, the addition of Martin Mulkerrins, the 2018 All-Ireland senior singles champion, gave Moycullen a fighting chance to become the first Galway team, and only the second Connacht team, to win the coveted prize of club senior champions, the handball equivalent of Corofin footballers and Portumna hurlers.
Each team comprised two single players (Martin Mulkerrins and Diarmuid Mulkerrins ) and one doubles pairing (Seamus Conneely and Conor Noone, with Darragh Mulkerrins the substitute player ), and in match one, Martin Mulkerrins gave Moycullen the perfect start with a blistering win against Robert Fox 15-1, followed by a 15-2 win in the second to give Moycullen an early 30-3 lead.
Match two went the way of Kells with the experienced duo, former All-Ireland 40x20 doubles champions Brian Carroll and Tom Sheridan, getting the better of Seamus Connelly and Conor Noone with the men from the Royal County winning this one 15-6 and 15-3. The aggregate score, 39-33 in favour of the Tribesmen, still had the Kells team favorites to win out.
The final match saw the younger Mulkerrins, Diarmuid (2019 U21 singles and doubles champion ) face off against the the vastly experienced Gary McConnell (holder of numerous All-Ireland senior titles ) and it turned out to be a titanic struggle. The momentum see-sawed between the two to the end. McConnell settled quickest and lead 7-1 before Mulkerrins reeled him in to tie the score at 7-7 and move on to an 11-7 lead. But the experienced Kells man took eight of the next nine points to take the first 15-12.
The Moycullen lead, down to just three aces, meant Mulkerrins had to score 13 points to guarantee a win. At 10-9 up, and the spectators on the edge of their seats, the title was still very much in the balance. But Mulkerrins, whose unerring kill shots saw off the last challenges of the Meath man, made the final few aces to win 15-9 and seal victory for Moycullen on 66-57 score-line.