Family ties for Doyles, Kavanaghs, Buggys
Calgary now a city that will be forever in the memory for Wexford handball as seven players returned from the 2015 world championships with medals.
Amazingly, three families claimed had two winners each as Ned and Gavin Buggy, Josh and Daniel Kavanagh, and Robert and Mark Doyle all claimed gold.
With the first week of competition featuring the one-wall format of the game, Daniel Kavanagh was the only man in purple and gold to win a medal as he received silver along with his Tyrone partner, Seán Kerr, in the 17 and under doubles as Diarmuid Mulkerrins (Galway) and Tadhg O'Neill (Cork) proved just too strong in a tie-break victory.
The four-wall competition began then and twelve hardy Wexford players went into action, with Laurence Dunne and Seán Nolan from Kilmyshall both very unlucky to go down in the opening rounds of their respective grades.
Daniel Kavanagh, who was the first-ever Wexford player to be selected on the official Irish team for a world championships, carried high hopes in the singles and doubles of the 17 and under grade. The St. Joseph's man didn't disappoint as he swept the boards and claimed both titles.
In the singles he got up and running in the round of 16 with a 21-5, 21-5 win over Alan Burgos from Ontario, before a tough game against Gavin Coyle from Monaghan saw Kavanagh prevail on a 21-13, 21-12 scoreline.
Next up was another belter of a game as Daniel played his former doubles partner, Tadhg O'Neill from Cork. 'I felt strong going in the game,' he said. 'I knew I could beat Tadhg, it was crucial to get the good start against him and I did,' he added, as Kavanagh bombed to a 21-12, 21-14 victory.
That set him up for a final clash with Fergal Coughlan from Clare. The first game was the key to victory and, despite suffering from a serious shoulder injury beforehand, a heavily strapped Kavanagh showed his class in a 21-17 win. The confidence was up.
'I told my Dad at the interval that I was going to win the title,' explained Kavanagh and he duly did with an impressive 21-10 win in the second set.
Not being content with a singles title, Kavanagh and Seán Kerr once again teamed up in a bid for a world title. Their opening round encounter only just got the go-ahead as Kavanagh was carrying an injury, but a dramatic injury to Patrick Murphy in the quarter-final meant that Kavanagh and Kerr had an easy passage through.
In the semi-finals they defeated Colin Ryan (Tipperary) and Daniel Walsh (Cork) 21-12, 21-17 to set up a showdown with Mulkerrins and O'Neill once again.
There was no let-up in the drama between the four best Irish players in this age group as they went the full way again. This time it was Kerr and Kavanagh who claimed the opening set 21-16, but their opponents took the second set on the same score.
'It was all about the four-wall coming out here,' claimed Kavanagh, and the very talented St. Joseph's player made sure to claim the 17 and under doubles title with an 11-6 tie-breaker win.
Josh Kavanagh, Daniel's younger brother, emulated his brother's 13 and under doubles title from 2012 as he and clubmate Mark Doyle won it again. In the semi-final of a hotly-contested grade, Tyson Clarke (New York) and Jack Doyle (Kilkenny) provided the opposition and a brilliant match saw the Wexford boys triumph 15-11, 15-11 to set up a final against Cahir Munroe and Jason O'Toole who had defeated the St. Joseph's duo in the one-wall semi-final.
A similar result looked likely in the final after the opening set went to the Galway duo 15-12, however the fresher St. Joseph's pair were hungry and determined and the clubmates were the pride of the county as they turned the Galway boys over 15-9 and 11-7.
Their parents were over the moon after all the hard work the boys put in, with Josh and Mark explaining that they had trained four days a week in the run up to the competition.
Mark's father, Robert, followed his son's lead and claimed the 45 and over 'B' singles title. A comfortable quarter-final win over Michael Egan from Roscommon set him up for a 21-14, 21-8 win over Monaghan's Conor McDonnell.
That semi-final win saw Robert come up against his doubles partner from Kilkenny, Willie Holden. Doyle proved his strength on the court and dominated from the outset in a 21-15, 21-4 win. The pair were forced to pull out of the doubles semi-final due to a fixture clash with their own semi-finals.
Gavin and Ned Buggy have both been winners at previous world championships, but the father and son combination showed they still retain the hunger for success. Gavin partnered Dominic Lynch from Kerry to take the 35 and over doubles title.
The semi-final was a comfortable 21-1, 21-8 win over Cesar Sala and Trevor Huber from the U.S.A., before they met a mammoth pairing of Michael 'Duxie' Walsh and David Maloney in the final. The successful on many occasions Wexford and Kerry pairing once again delivered the goods and were awesome in a 21-14, 21-6 victory, as Gavin gained revenge on 'Duxie' who had beaten him in the singles semi-final on a 21-7, 21-7 scoreline.
Ned Buggy partnered Eugene Kennedy from Dublin to win the super veteran doubles title. The pair had comfortable wins in the opening two rounds, defeating Ron Shoquist and Jon Vargorder from Portland in the round of 16, and in the quarter-final they were too strong for Alaskan duo Terry Marmy and Rich Curtner.
In the semi-final Californian duo Edward Campbell and Michael Woods pushed the winners all the way on a 21-18, 21-10 score. The final paired Buggy and Kennedy against Frank Cikan and Don Scilly from Montana. A tight contest went the way of the Irish duo on a 21-13, 21-15 scoreline as this partnership proved to be winners once again.
Noel Holohan was very unlucky in men's 'C' singles and doubles. In the singles Noel charged all the way to the semi-final, defeating Carlos Tavarez, Tomás Lennon and Michael Donovan before losing out 11-10 in a tie-breaker to Rory O'Connor from Kerry.
However, Holohan did not come away empty-handed as he won a silver medal in the doubles when he partnered Daniel Breen from Kilkenny. The team-mates from Waterford I.T. advanced to the final firstly by defeating London duo Daniel Tristao and Daniel Grant 21-2, 21-8.
In the quarter-final they defeated John Walsh and Daniel Riordan 21-2, 21-6, and in the semi-final they overcame Japanese duo Kitahara Daisuke and Yataka Sakurai 21-5, 21-1. In the final Laois duo Michael Donovan and Tomás Lennon were the fresher pair and were worthy winners on a 21-18, 21-7 scoreline.
James Dunne and Thomas Byrne also advanced to the semi-final of their doubles competition, while Bobby Doyle was the final player of twelve to compete gallantly in the under-age events.
It was a fantastic ten days, when the handball world came together. And with memories of a lifetime stored, players can already look forward to 2018 when the biggest prizes in world handball will be played for in Anchorage, Alaska.