Moycullen handball ace Martin Mulkerrins has claimed this year’s All Ireland Intermediate Singles Championship title and is now one of the country’s leading young handballers to have been promoted to the senior ranks.
It is an amazing achievement for this young player who, only six months ago, won the minor crown. At 19 years old, he now one of the youngest players to reach senior status and, in doing so, he also broke a 29 year gap in Galway handball since his clubmate Eamon Coneely was promoted to senior in 1983.
Mulkerrins, a first year agriculture student at UCD, has enjoyed a meteoric rise in handball since capturing the World u-17 title in Portland, Oregon in 2009. This year he overcame a number of top American and Irish players to win the United States Collegiate Handball Open title and in doing so became the youngest winner of the event since Arizona’s Luis Moreno won the collegiate title in 2007.
Last weekend it was youth versus experience again as Mulkerrins took to the court after a six-game campaign that had seen him prevail in two previous tight matches.
And once again his youthfulness did not stop him overcoming experienced Tipperary man, Ger Coonan in what was a highly charged atmosphere that had the crowd on its feet.
Coonan, from Ballina Club and already promoted to senior in the big alley, was bidding to advance in the 40x20 court. He enjoyed the better start, producing some powerful low services to the left corner which helped him race into an 11-1 lead. Although Mulkerrins fought hard to make a match of it, Coonan finished out comfortably 21-5.
At that stage it appeared that Coonan, a beaten finalist at this grade two years ago, was on his way to an easy victory, but Mulkerrins was not to be denied. He went 5 - 0 up in the second game before Coonan rallied and moved into an 11-9 lead. However Mulkerrins, with some exquisite serving and kill shots, levelled matters at 11-11. In the ascendancy, the Galway man did not concede another ace and closed out the second on a 21-11 scoreline.
Coonan made the first four points in the third but, with both contestants playing with speed, power, and athleticism, Mulkerrins once again levelled matters at 4-4. A variety of reverse spin serves, mixed with some natural spin serves to the right corner, reaped dividends for Mulkerrins, and it helped him into a 15-6 lead.
Coonan, however, made one last effort and narrowed the margin to 16-11 to heighten the tension. The players exchanged aces to 19-14, but it was Mulkerrins who finished with a 21-14 lead, bringing to an end a two-hour test of skill, stamina and endurance which had the crowd on their feet.