Daniel living the dream in Canada
Published 18/08/2015 | 00:00
Week one of the 2015 world handball championships saw the representatives of county Wexford take to action on the one-wall courts of Calgary at two venues: the Optimus arena, an ice hockey centre with four temporary courts in the middle of it, and the Clear Water Academy, a school gym building.
Daniel Kavanagh came very close to collecting a second world handball title of his career but he and partner Seán Kerr from Tyrone fell at the final hurdle in the boys 17 and under doubles.
In the quarter-final the Wexford/Tyrone duo were 25-5 winners over Matthew McCartan and Turlough from Tyrone.
The semi-final saw them take on Galway duo Jamie Kelly and Patrick Murphy and this was a cracking contest, with Kavanagh and Kerr just surviving on a 25-21 scoreline to advance to the decider.
The final was a fantastic game with some handball from the top drawer by all four players. Tadhg O'Neill (Cork) and Diarmuid Mulkerrins (Galway) provided the opposition and some of the dives for balls were incredible.
The Cork/Galway pair won the opening set 21-10, but the favourites, Kavanagh and Kerr, hit back strongly in the second set with a 21-17 win. The tie-breaker was more of the same with four players playing out of their skins, with O'Neill and Mulkerrins surviving on an 11-7 score to secure the title.
Daniel's brother, Josh Kavanagh, and Mark Doyle, both from St. Joseph's, were unlucky to bow out of the 13 and under doubles at the semi-final stage as they lost out to Cahir Munroe and James O'Toole from Galway on a 25-14 scoreline.
A frustrating day for Josh saw him also defeated in the semi-final of the 13 and under singles.
On this occasion James O'Toole was the winner on a 25-14 scoreline, but it was a brilliant achievement for Mark and Josh to make the last four of the world championships.
Other Wexford players who lined out in the one-wall competitions included Bobby Doyle in the eleven and under singles, and he was agonisingly close to victory before losing out 25-24 to Joshua Harkin from Cork.
Noel Holohan and Seán Nolan lost out in the quarter-final of the men's 'C' doubles against Niall and Darren Flynn from Longford on a 25-19 scoreline, with the midlands duo winning out the competition after that.
Noel also took part in the one-wall singles and he lost out in the quarter-finals to Shane Murphy from Limerick on a 25-24 scoreline.
And despite the outcome of that final, young handballer Daniel Kavanagh is living his dream! Having won his maiden Irish Junior National 17 and under title back in April, the St. Joseph's clubman earned his sport on GAA Team Ireland for the World Handball Championships in Calgary, Canada.
This is Kavanagh's first major championship abroad as part of an official Irish team, and as part of his training he got invaluable experience at training camps with the Senior members of Team Ireland, including current four-time world champion Paul Brady (Cavan), arguably the greatest player to have ever played the game.
'Getting to play on the same court as Paul is brilliant,' Daniel said. 'It is a bit daunting considering just how good he is, but I am thoroughly enjoying it and it can only improve my own skills seeing his shot selection and control of the ball first hand.' Preparation cannot have went better for Kavanagh, and he feels confident he will be there or thereabouts come finals day.
'I got the best training camps at the Irish camps possible, not only with Paul, but the like of reigning All-Ireland Senior champion Robbie McCarthy as well, and all the lads are only too helpful with tips to help my own game.
'I know the key challengers in my grade from various battles down through the years, and I know what is required to win.
'No stone will be left unturned as nothing could make me happier than coming home with that gold medal in three weeks' time!'
Kavanagh, unknown to most, is in fact the first Wexford man to make an official Irish handball team, and the support he is receiving from within the county is very encouraging. His club, St. Joseph's, hosted the final Irish training camp on the weekend before the squad jetted off to Calgary, with a big turn-out from youngsters all eager to get a glimpse of their handball heroes.
'The atmosphere around the place was fantastic,' Daniel said.
'It has been a real boost for the club being chosen to host the camp, and it is a credit to all the club members who have being putting in so much effort the past few years.'