Juveniles serve up super finals
60 x 30 season concludes
Last weekend saw the culmination of a very busy 60 x 30 county Juvenile schedule when the singles finals got the go ahead at venues around the county.
The programme of finals got under way Friday evening in St. Mary's, with the girls' Under-17 singles final opening proceedings when Cora Doyle took on Eva Crean.
Both St. Joseph's girls battled it out in their very last juvenile game within the county. They both have been terrific ambassadors over the last number of years for Wexford handball and look set to build on their stellar careers at adult level.
Cora settled better here and ground out a 21-7, 21-15 victory, with Eva making relentless progress in the second game and causing Cora all sorts of problems.
Cora has been the winning-most Juvenile girl in the county for some considerable time and is expected to feature prominently when the All-Ireland Under-17 singles get the green light early in September.
Josh Kavanagh added the 60 x 30 title to the 40 x 20 one from earlier in the year when he beat Cian Kehoe in another all-St. Joseph's affair 21-11, 21-15.
This was a hard-hitting encounter with both players showing tremendous ability, but Josh got the breaks when he needed them most to win it a shade comfortably.
Colm Parnell (Ballyhogue) edged out Robert Cogley (Ballymitty) in a very good boys' Under-17 singles final where both players looked to have massive potential for the future. Colm held a huge advantage at 17-4 in the first game but only scraped home 21-20 after a monumental comeback from Robert.
That just gave the Ballyhogue man an edge and he went on to show himself in a good light, winning the second 21-15. There was great effort and sportsmanship from both boys which was a notable feature of this final.
The next round of finals took place Saturday evening in the northern county club of Coolgreany, where a warm and friendly welcome always awaits vistors.
The opening final featured the talented Under-10 boys, Eoin Kinsella (Coolgreany) and Conor Doyle(Taghmon). Local boy Eoin seemed to relish the support of the large home crowd and got off to a strong start, taking an early lead.
Conor settled his nerves after a couple of great shots but Eoin's early lead was just to much to make up and he took the first game. The second game was a tremendous battle with the boys matching each other point for point.
With the boys tied at ten all, Eoin played a couple of lovely passing shots to take the lead. He never looked back and secured his second county title in a week.
The next final up was the boys Under-12 which saw another local boy, Conor Horan, take on St. Mary's Shane Kehoe. Conor had a difficult path to the final having come through the hotly-contested qualifying group first and then the 'A' championship group.
This stood to him and he dominated this final from the start, winning the first game comfortably. No one would doubt Shane's enormous handball ability and on his day he can produce eye-catching handball, but unfortunately this was not his day.
He tried to push on and put up a fight but couldn't get any sort of break and was not afforded any either by his determined opponent, who displayed skilful handball throughout the second game. Conor made sure that the county Under-12 title was not heading down the Wexford road in impressive style.
The boys' Under-13 final was without a doubt the game of the weekend, featuring Mylie Connors (Coolgreany) and St. Joseph's Johnny Goggins. This was a repeat of last year's Under-12 final, with Johnny taking the honours that day by the narrowest of margins.
Johnny settled the best, producing some excellent shots and fine serving to take the first game 15-10. Last year's disappointment was clearly on Mylie's mind as he entered the second game and a battle ensued between both boys.
The atmosphere around the 'back wall' was tense as Mylie looked for the last couple of points. He wrapped up the second game on a 15-11 scoreline.
Johnny had the serve in the tie-breaker game and certainly took advantage of this, taking an 9-0 lead, leaving the home crowd shell-shocked. What followed was a remarkable comeback from Mylie, as serve by serve he reeled Johnny back to 9-9, pushing out to 13-9 lead.
Johnny took the next three points only to then lose his serve. Mylie took the next point to set up a game ball, only to hit a back light and lose his serve. Johnny produced two fine serves to level it at 14-14.
The excitement and support of the home crowd seemed to rise Mylie who returned pressure shots county Senior players wouldn't get and regained serve. He certainly made no mistakes this time and secured the county title to the roars and delight of the home support.
Up next was the an all-Coolgreany affair, the girls' Under-16 final featuring the ever-reliable Leanne Boland and Cliodhna O'Connell. Both girls have been on the handball scene for many years and always show great attitude and potential when playing.
Unfortunately, in the days leading up to the final Leanne was unwell and really struggled to get any way involved in this final. Her stablemate didn't afford her any sympathy either, playing crisp clinical handball.
Cliodhna took a comprehensive two straight games win to add another county title to her growing list of honours. Both girls will team up together to represent Wexford in the upcoming Leinster championship.
Sunday morning saw four other finals also played in St. Mary's where honours were decided at boys' Under-11, Under-14 and Under-15 and girls' Under-13.
Jamie Barnes (St. Mary's) took home his club's only Juvenile singles title when he fashioned a 15-14, 15-9 victory over Rory Gilbert (St. Joseph's) in a high-class boys' Under-11 final.
The first game swung backwards and forwards and at 14-10 up the 'Matty's Alley' man looked to have settled the issue, but Rory had other ideas and levelled at 14-14 and had chances to take it.
Jamie wrapped it up though and, as so often is the case at under-age, the opening game proved crucial and he held off the Joseph's boy 15-9 to win 'two straight'.
Mark Doyle (Taghmon) remains Wexford's most prolific Juvenile and he took the spoils at boys' Under-14 with a comprehensive 15-0, 15-4 defeat of Ben Keeling (St. Joseph's) in a game that featured some terrific shots.
Ben would have been faced with an arduous task from the outset but tried hard. This got Taghmon onto the medal table and it was their solitary title.
Dean O'Neill (Ballymitty) showed Diarmuid Moore (St. Joseph's) a clean pair of heels in the end but only after a very tactical and well-contested game. This was Dean's maiden singles title in the county and he achieved it on a 15-10, 15-7 scoreline.
Jodie Keeling (St. Joseph's) continued on her merry way in 2017 when she accounted for Ellie Murphy-O'Gorman (St. Joseph's) by two games to nil after quite a decent game in the girls' Under-13 singles.
The finals wouldn't have been possible without the enormous amount of work undertaken by Juvenile Games Officer Marguerite Gore who excelled in her new post, and also the contribution of Mick Flood and Fintan Furlong in St. Mary's who selflessly gave of their time to provide the venue and oversee proceedings in an efficient and friendly manner was very much appreciated.
A special thanks must go to all club officials, as without all your help these championship could not happen. The County Wexford Juvenile committee cannot stress enough our appreciation and heartfelt thanks.
Coolgreany topped the honours list with four titles, followed closely by St. Joseph's on three. Ballymitty notched two while Taghmon, St. Mary's and Ballyhogue all returned one each.