Mayo was at the centre of the Irish handball world last weekend with not one but two major sporting events attracting large attendances and much to talk about. While the game’s top seniors did battle over two days at the second John Gaffney memorial tournament in Ballaghaderreen, girls of all ages had a weekend event all to themselves with the inaugural Go Handball Tournament at six Mayo venues on Saturday and Sunday.
Sixteen hopefuls went to post for the John Gaffney Memorial at Ballaghaderreen which got under way early on Saturday morning. The opening round saw wins for tops seed Eoin Kennedy over rising Galway minor, Martin Mulkerrins, Kerry’s Dominic Lynch accounted for Gavin Buggy from Wexford, and second seed Charly Shanks accounted for local youngster Stephen Cooney while Vinny Moran gave a fine account before losing out to Robbie McCarthy of Westmeath in two games. There was some cheer for the club as Dessie Keegan did just enough to see off the challenge of Tyrone’s Ruairi Kelly by a single ace in the tie-break third game and Joe McCann made it to the last eight with a fine win over Ricky McCann from Antrim.
In the quarter-finals Eoin Kennedy beat Meath’s Brian Carroll 21-10, 21-10, Robbie McCarthy beat Seamus O’Carroll from Limerick, 21-14, 21-14, Charly Shanks beat Dominic Lynch from Kerry 11-10 in the tie-break, and Dessie Keegan accounted for his all-Ireland senior doubles partner John McCann in two games. In the Sunday morning semi-finals McCarthy defeated Shanks 21-6, 21-16 but the match of the day was between Eoin Kennedy and Dessie Keegan. The Ballaghaderreen man chalked up the first game in impressive fashion 21 aces to 15 but Kennedy stormed back to take the second for the loss of just eight aces. Any hopes of a local in the final were dashed, despite Keegan’s best efforts as Kennedy closed out the match winning the tie-break third 11 aces to 4 and so the stage was set for a repeat of last year’s final.
The first game of the final was an extremely tight affair. Kennedy went on to record a hard fought win in the final.
Castlebar, Claremorris, Kiltimagh, Newport, and Aughagower were among the venues for the inaugural Go Handball event, the brainchild of Niamh Egan of the Irish Handball Council and the event turned out to be a resounding success. While resources were seriously stretched at times due in no small part to the number of matches, various cup and place competitions, everything ran smoothly and overall the results reflected the form book. While Mayo contestants were out of luck in the main cup events, Shannon Byrne from Kiltimagh won the girls’ u15 plate competition and Clodagh McMenamon took the honours in the girls’ u19 plate.