Young guns in final action
Handball, Leinster Juvenile Championships: Wexford representatives deliver high standard on court
The curtain came down on the GAA Handball Leinster 60 x 30 Juvenile championships in the past week, with finals played across the province in a host of venues.
All roads led to Clogh, Co. Kilkenny, on Wednesday, with the Wexford pairing of Rory Gilbert (St. Joseph's) and Alec Moran (Ballymitty) competing at boys' Under-12 doubles, and Conor Murphy (Taghmon) joining up with Ross Arnold (Coolgreany) in boys' Under-15 doubles.
The Under-12 boys faced a huge challenge to overcome the strong Kilkenny pairing of John Hayes and Cathal Buckley. The Wexford boys were very unlucky at times during the first game and, although producing good handball, they came up just short, losing it 15-9.
The Kilkenny pairing got off to a strong start in the second game, taking a good lead, and, despite the Wexford boys putting in a fantastic effort, Kilkenny closed out the match 15-5.
The Wexford pairing at Under-15 doubles were certainly underdogs going into their match against Ciarán Phelan and Luke Flanagan (Kilkenny). A battle did ensue but the Slaneysiders found themselves 14-12 down and worked hard to get Kilkenny out; this they did,ne snatching the first on a nail-biting score of 15-14.
The Wexford boys carried their battling underdog attitude into the second game. Ross on his Leinster debut produced excellent serving and Connors was quickest around the court as the boys had a terrific win on a score of 15-7.
On Friday, Laois girl Una Brophy made the trip down to Ballymitty to face local April Moran in the Under-15 singles final. The travelling girl put the early scores on the board, taking a 4-0 lead and putting pressure on Moran.
April needed a big response, and respond she did with smart, skilful play as she went on to win the first 15-5. Both girls started the second game brightly, but Una put more of a challenge up to April and forced her to make mistakes and think more about her game.
With composure and the advantage of the home court, April seized her moment to take the honours 15-9.
Attention switched to the Emmet Place club of St. Mary's on Thursday, with Tommy Connors (Coolgreany) in the boys' Under-15 singles and Callum Smithies (Bridgetown) in the boys' Under-17 singles facing tough opposition in Kilkenny boys Seán Barron and Eoin O'Brien respectively.
First to grace the court was Connors facing the highly-experienced Barron. This game started at lighting speed, with the Kilkenny boy putting 8-0 on the scoreboard.
Tommy is no stranger to playing Leinster finals, and he showed great composure and dug deep to claw the score back to 8-8. From this moment Tommy never looked in real trouble again, winning the first 15-8.
The second game continued as the first did with excellent displays during long rallies from both players. Tommy had tasted defeat previously in Leinster at this stage but his determination was evident as he secured the second game and the title 15-4.
Callum Smithies was certainly facing into a battle against the lively Eoin O'Brien. Both boys matched each other mark for mark during the first game.
With the score standing at 17-17, the Wexford lad hit some beautiful serves to clinch the first 21-17.
The second was a copy of the first with neither player leading by three at any time, until the score was 16-13 to Eoin when, with what could only be described as an extremely lucky couple of shots, the lead increased to 19. Eoin went on to win the second 21-16.
With the tie-breaker in this age group to eleven, a good start is critical and Callum was slow out of the blocks, falling behind 7-0. Although Callum did try to battle back, he just ran out of time and his opponent secured the win 11-4.
Saturday saw picturesque Garryhill, Co. Carlow, play host to the Leinster finals in boys' Under-12, Under-13 and Under-14 singles, and boys' Under-17 doubles.
Up first was St. Mary's boy Jamie Barnes (Under-12) against the very talented Conor Doyle (Kilkenny). The game started with neither boy giving an inch to each other, with no marks being made for four to five serves.
Conor settled first, putting scores on the board, and Jamie, unable to find a good serve, found himself 8-0 behind. Conor comfortably saw out the first 15-3.
It was a tale of two games, as what Jamie failed to do in the first he executed perfectly in the second, winning 15-4 with fine serves, kills and passing shots.
The tie-breaker was a repeat of the first game and Jamie found himself 10-1 down. With the support of the travelling Wexford crowd, Jamie battled back to 13-11, but unfortunately the Kilkenny boy got over the finish line at 15-11.
Bobby Doyle (Taghmon) in Under-13 singles has plenty of national and international experience under his belt and he needed to rely on all of this to see him over the line against Kilkenny hot shot Michael Brennan.
Neither boy gave anything away in the first game, matching each other shot for shot. Michael pulled away to 14-10 but Bobby wasn't ready to give up just yet and got it back to 14-14.
With one last push, Michael was the first to get over the finish line 15-14. Bobby, serving in the second game, was superb and he found a weak spot in Michael's game, taking an early lead of 12-0 and from here he pushed on to secure the second 15-2.
In the tie-breaker, Bobby took a commanding lead at 8-0 and looked to be in control, but Michael slowly reeled the Taghmon boy back in to 12-9. Keeping his calm and calling on his experience, Bobby finished out the Leinster final 15-12.
Coolgreany boy Mylie Connors (Under-14 singles) faced off against one of the country's most talented Juveniles, Kilkenny's Harry Delaney.
Harry has won everything around him in recent years and would be hotly tipped to win the All-Ireland. Mylie has a fantastic spirit for handball and would play the game every hour of the day, but unfortunately his opponent was just too strong for him and he went down 15-1, 15-1.
The Bridgetown boys' Under-17 pairing of Jake Doyle and Gary Duggan went to battle with James Love and Tom Carroll (Kilkenny). The Kilkenny boys have been around the Leinster Juvenile scene for many years whereas the Wexford lads were both making their debuts.
At this level experience is essential and that was the only difference between both pairings. The Wexford boys fought throughout the first game, making Kilkenny dig deep to secure it 21-13.
The Kilkenny lads started the second at a lively pace, going 9-1 up and cruising. They continued putting marks on the board, something the Wexford lads failed to do on their serve. Kilkenny finished the game out 21-1.
Garryhill was the venue again on Sunday when the last Wexford pairing of Ballymitty duo Danielle Kinsella and Becky O'Neill (Under-15 girls' doubles) had a mountain to climb against Kilkenny duo Nathania Jackson and Lauren Power.
The Wexford girls weren't given a chance to get going against the very strong Kilkenny pairing who displayed excellent levels of handball all around the court to see out the game 15-2, 15-2.