Last weekend’s handball action saw Mayo club Ballaghaderreen take an historic sixth All Ireland 40 x 20 inter-club title in a row, defeating Ballydesmond, Co Cork, in the final. An icy Christmas led to huge fixture congestion, warranting both postponed semi-finals and final of the senior club championship be played on the same day. Ballaghaderreen accounted for the up-and-coming Kells, Co Kilkenny, in their semi-final. Ballydesmond came through a tight encounter with Carrickmore, Co Tyrone, to claim their final spot.
In the first match of the final Ballaghaderreen’s top player, Dessie Keegan, took the former four times All Ireland senior champion Tony Healy. Keegan scraped the first game 21-20. Healy simply could not keep pace with the hard-hitting Mayo man in the second game, as Keegan powered his way to a somewhat unexpected 21-15 win.
With Ballydesmond’s top player well and truly subdued, the pressure was on the doubles partnership of Niall Fleming and John Keeffe to make aces. The first game of the doubles match saw them make a huge push against Ballaghaderreen’s Vinny Moran and Stephen Cooney, taking a 7-0 lead. At this point, however, the Ballagh men’s court craft really told. When opportunities presented themselves, Cooney and Moran showed the clinical killing ability for which they are renowned. They took the first game 21-8, somewhat disheartening for the Cork outfit. In the second game Cooney and Moran had their tactics perfect and did not allow Fleming or Keeffe a look in, taking the game 21-7.
Ballydesmond had a very strong player anchoring the team in Brendan Fleming. He stormed to an early 12-3 lead in the deciding match against Ballagh’s Joe McCann. The match was far from over. The two players rallied at this score for some time, both winning and losing serve in turn many times. The match was tense, but as the game went on McCann’s fitness began to show through. He began to steadily make aces, and though he could not pull of the victory, a loosing score of 15-21 was enough to put the match mathematically beyond Ballydesmond. This crowned a terrific campaign for Ballaghaderreen’s all conquering six-in-a-row champions. Connacht secured their second club title of the weekend when the Salthill Club in Galway did just enough to see off the challenge of a game against Liscarrol of Cork at Cappagh with 11 aces to spare.
John Gaffney memorial tournament this weekend
This weekend, 16 of the country’s top handball players will gather in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, to take part in one of the handballing year’s most high profile tournaments, the John Gaffney Senior Memorial. The tournament draws the top 10 available players from the most up-to-date rankings, the All Ireland minor and intermediate singles champions, and four wildcards. It is testament to the tournament’s prestige that eight of the current top 10 players will be in attendance. Dublin’s Eoin Kennedy will be back to defend his title, however hot on his heels are sure to be Westmeath’s Robby McCarthy and Armagh’s Charlie Shanks. Due to phenomenal demand, this year’s tournament will be an all ticket affair. Weekend passes to the tournament may be purchased at €15, with individual admittance at €10 per day. To purchase tickets and for more information contact Muriel Moran on 087 6251360 or [email protected]
It was also a sad weekend just gone for all associated with handball in Claremorris and the wider Mayo area when it was learned that Mick Walsh has passed away. Mick was a fine ball player and featured on the Claremorris All-Ireland Junior B club winning team in the eighties. It was the second time in as many weeks that the club has had to say a sad farewell to one of its founding members following the death of Mick’s club mate, Harry Mannix, two weeks ago.