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Handball took centre stage in Roscommon town last weekend with St Coman’s handball club hosting the Connacht senior handball finals. It was an all Ballaghaderreen affair, with established star Joe McCann and up-and-coming Stephen Cooney playing for the spoils.
Mayo handballers fared very well in their opening Connacht 40 x 20 semi-final ties with Sligo opposition over the weekend. George Miller defeated Sligo's Martin Cooney in a thrilling three-game encounter at Castleconnor on a 12-21, 21-7, 21-16 scoreline in the silver masters B singles, while Paschal Tuohy of Mayo had a 21-13, 21-13 win over Michael Browne in the junior C singles at the same venue. Killala's Martin Cronin is also through to the diamond masters A final as he beat Seamus Duffy in two games at St Mary's on Saturday. The only Mayo loss of the weekend was in the ruby masters as John Kenny came out second best against Sligo veteran Paddy Walsh in two games. Mayo host Sligo next weekend in seven doubles semi-finals.
Pauline Gallagher and Dessie Keegan were among the eight strong Irish men’s and ladies’ teams who competed in the one-wall Federations Cup in Imperia, Italy, last weekend. The Irish women lost in qualifying to Holland and Puerto Rico but qualified for the consolation ELA club. The Irish team saw off the challenge of the Basque Country and France to take the title in style. The team also included Roscommon’s Marianna Rushe, Kerry’s Ashley Prendiville, and Down’s Lorraine Havern. Dessie Keegan helped team mates Charly Shanks (Armagh), James Doyle (Antrim), and Robbie McCarthy (Westmeath) to a fifth place finish in the men’s team event following qualifying wins over France and Mexico. However the Irish lost their quarter-final to Puerto Rico. Twenty teams in all competed in the annual one-wall team tournament.
Mayo duo Dessie Keegan and Joe McCann made a somewhat disappointing exit from the All-Ireland senior doubles championship as they lost out to Wexford duo Barry Goff and Colin Keeling in three games at Thurles on Saturday evening. There were hopes that the pair would at least threaten for a place in the last four of the doubles championship, and they started with great intent. This was rewarded with a fine 21 aces to 13 win in the opener that set them up nicely for victory. However matters took a turn for the worse after that initial good showing and Keegan, who had been unwell during the week, was unable to maintain the intensity of the first game and the duo paid the price, losing this second game heavily, 21 aces to 5.
There were no real surprises in the two provincial senior finals at Ballaghaderreen on Saturday afternoon as all-Ireland senior doubles champions Dessie Keegan and Joe McCann maintained their unbeaten run to take the provincial title at the expense of fellow club mates Vincent Moran and Campbell Brennan. The champions were in devastating form in a very one sided opener and they won it for the loss of just two aces. Moran and Brennan finally got around to playing some handball in the second and the duo, to their credit, made a real fight of it and it looked like the game could go either way at one stage. However Keegan and McCann did just enough to see off the challenge as they won the second 21 aces to 17. Marianna Rushe ran out the expected easy winner of the ladies’ senior singles final with an easy two games to nil victory over fellow St Coman’s contender Leona Doolin.
The main highlights of the weekend were the two provincial senior finals at Ballaghaderreen on Saturday. Much had been made of the all-Ballaghaderreen clash between Joe McCann and Dessie Keegan in the men’s final and a good attendance was expecting a close match. However it was clear from the off that while Keegan was on fire there was something seriously amiss with Joe McCann’s game. Keegan blitzed into a commanding 10 aces to nil lead, thanks to some powerful serving and what can be best described as a nightmare start for McCann. Although the game opened up somewhat toward the end of the first, Keegan maintained a hefty lead and won it comfortably 21 aces to six. Any hopes of a recovery by McCann in the second game were short lived as once again the impressive Keegan piled on the aces and the agony for McCann. While Joe McCann did cut the deficit to six aces at 13-7 and it looked for a brief moment that Keegan had lost his momentum this was quickly regained, as Keegan ran out a comfortable winner on a 21 aces to 9 scoreline.
It was a busy week on almost all handball fronts with action for seniors, juniors, masters, and students alike. Vincent Moran and Campbell Brennan have reached the provincial senior doubles final as they recorded a hard-earned two games to one victory over determined Roscommon pair Neil McDermott and Niall McGrath at Roscommon on Friday evening. The Ballaghaderreen club men won the first game 21 aces to 10 but lost the second 21-13. They had to battle all the way in the third before winning it by a singe ace 21-20 to set up an all-Mayo final. The second semi-final, postponed due to the US Collegiates, features Dessie Keegan and Joe McCann against Stephen Cooney and Ian McLoughlin.