Talented handballers hold the aces
Last weekend produced a five-star show from the handball players of county Wexford as five national titles were claimed from six finals. There was plenty of drama in the finals also.
Gavin Buggy is back dining at the top table in Over-35 singles in the small court after a break of three years since he last captured this title. The St. Joseph's clubman produced a very good performance to see off Kerry's Dominic Lynch in the final on Saturday.
The pair know each other very well from competitive action over the years and they have also tasted success together as a pairing in the world championships of 2009. On this occasion Buggy held more punch and hit winning shots at crucial stages en route to a 21-14, 21-18 win over the man from the Kingdom.
Barry McWilliams from Horeswood has threatened to deliver on many occasions in the past on the national scene, but after a few close calls he produced an almost flawless performance in the Masters 'B' singles final as he had too much handball for Shane Bruen from Sligo. Barry forced an early pace and his blistering start baffled Bruen, with the Sligo man losing 21-3 in the opening set. Bruen got to terms with McWilliams a bit better in the second set but he was unable to stop him capturing the title on a 21-11 scoreline.
The winning feeling was catching and was spreading around the country and grades as the next man to claim national honours was Robert Doyle. Up against Clare man Mike Hayes, the opening set proved to be an absolute belter of a contest and one feels that winning this broke the heart of Hayes as, when the chips were down, Doyle had the hands to take the opener 21-19. With the momentum in his corner he bolted away in the second set and defeated the Banner county man 21-2 to claim the Silver Masters 'B' singles crown.
John Bail was the man to claim the fourth Wexford title of a magnificent five as he took the glory in the Diamond Masters 'B' singles. Bail set about his objective in ferocious fashion in the opening set as he thumped Dave Stack from Cork 21-3. The man from the Rebel county did raise his game in the second set but Bail had too many winning shots for his opponent and took it 21-13.
The drama of the fifth title win will live long in the memory of Michael Rossiter as the Wexford man, who has only recently returned to the game, won a brilliant final of the Emerald Masters 'B' singles. A routine 21-11 win in the first set looked likely to set the tone for a two-set game, however Denis Phelan from Galway proved he was in the court for a long game by capturing the second set 21-10.
It looked fantastic for the Tribesman in the third and deciding set also as he forged into a 19-7 lead and, only needing two more aces, it seemed destined that the title would be his. Rossiter hadn't read the script however and he chipped the lead away and took the set 21-20 to leave Phelan stunned as he had the victory in his hands.
Marguerite Gore was not as lucky in the final of the ladies' Junior singles as she found Sinéad Ní Anlí from Galway too hot to handle on Saturday. Gore, who has been at the top of the Wexford ladies' scene for many years, will certainly be disappointed in losing out 21-8, 21-9, but there is no doubt that the St. Mary's clubwoman will be back on the winning trail nationally in the future.
All-Ireland 40 x 20 doubles finals fixtures - Saturday, March 21: At Bawn, Monaghan, 11.30 a.m., Over-35 'A' doubles, Gavin Buggy and Tommy Hynes) v. Mayo (Vinnie Moran and Campbell Brennan).
Sunday, March 22, at Tinryland, Carlow, 3 p.m., Masters 'B' doubles, John Roche and David Redmond v. Clare (Tom Kirby and Richard Woods).
At Kilbeggan, Westmeath, 2 p.m., Emerald Masters 'B' doubles, Richie Culleton and John Bail) v. Mayo (Frank Macken and John O'Malley).
The semi-finals of the All-Ireland 40 x 20 Juvenile championships took place over the past weekend, with Tinryland in Carlow hosting a feast of handball on Sunday. Wexford had competitors in seven of the grades across boys and girls competitions, and two doubles pairs have qualified for All-Ireland finals in two weeks' time.
Glen Murphy was first into action in the semi-final of the Under-14 singles. Unfortunately, it was not to be for the talented Wexford player as he lost out two games to zero against Lorcan McBride from Tyrone.
However, there was better news in the semi-final of the Under-14 doubles as Josh McMahon and Cian Kehoe gained the upper hand by two games to zero against Darra Curran and Cahir Munroe from Tyrone.
That result was soon followed by another victory as Colm Parnell and Ciarán Power won a fantastic semi-final in Under-15 doubles by two games to one over Ronan Curran and Shane Grimes from Tyrone. Tyrone struck back in the next contest at Under-15 with Cora Doyle losing out to Michaela McCartan by two games to love.
Emma Sweeney and Eva Creane went desperately close to winning their semi-final in the Under-15 girls' doubles but were just pipped at the post by Armagh duo Beth Doris and Méabh McCambridge by two games to one. Turlough Clarke and Darragh Canavan proved too strong in the Under-16 doubles as the Tyrone pair beat Anthony Butler and Patrick Boland by two games to nil.
Megan McCann won the final game involving a Wexford player as Holly Hynes was unable to overcome the Armagh girl and lost out by two games to nil in the Under-16 girls' singles semi-final.