Goff and Keeling lay down serious marker
BARRY GOFF and Colin Keeling, the current kings of big alley handball in Ireland, laid down a serious marker to any contenders to their title this season by recording a two-in-a-row of triumphs in the 60 x 30 Irish Nationals which took place in Kilkenny venues over the weekend.
Last year's All-Ireland champions opened their weekend with a comfortable 31-5 win over Kilkenny duo Nicky Anthony and Brian Minogue. Tougher challenges lay ahead for the Model county duo, with Senior singles champion in the big court, Robbie McCarthy, joining with Michael Gregan from Wicklow in the semi-final. It was a tough game before the St. Mary's/Castlebridge duo prevailed 31-13.
The final was expected to be a classic with the Wexford duo up against Eoin Kennedy from Dublin, a former multiple All-Ireland Senior singles champion, and his World doubles partner from Cavan, Michael Finnegan. It was a spectacle for the game of handball as both pairings gave their all for the win, but the continuity of the Wexford partnership and fantastic kill shots proved vital in the end as Goff and Keeling retained their title on a 31-24 scoreline in the final.
This was not the only Wexford success on Nationals weekend as Tommy Hynes and Paul Carty put together a winning partnership in the Masters doubles grade. The St. Mary's club players went about their business well in the opening round and in the semi-final they beat Pat Quaile (Wicklow) and John Ryan (Carlow), 31-8.
The final was won on a similar scoreline with the hard-hitting power of Hynes and great serving by Carty proving far too much for Kilkenny duo Eddie Burke and Nicky Reilly as the purple and gold men won 31-7.
Galen Riordan from Ballyhogue was a winner in the boys Under-17 category as he teamed up with south-east counterpart Martin Mullins from Carlow to take the winners' prize. In a very close final the south-east combination worked best and defeated Michael Keating and Daniel Riordan from Cork 31-20.
Paul Lambert teamed up with Offaly star David Hope in the men's 'B' doubles event but their quest for glory faltered at the final hurdle as they went down to the all-Tipperary pairing of Denis White and John Ferncombe on a 31-23 scoreline.
The good thing about the Nationals event is that it accommodates early-round losers into plate competitions that provide a winning platform for those who were unlucky in the opening rounds. This route of success was exploited by two all-Wexford combinations as Daniel Kavanagh and Patrick Boland won the boys Under-13 doubles plate final, defeating Anthony Butler and Adam Walsh, also a Wexford duo, on a 21-16 scoreline.
The Under-15 plate final also came to Wexford as Castlebridge duo Oisín Foley and Tomás Hall defeated Evan Murphy and Denis Donegan from Meath on a 21-4 scoreline.
It was another busy and fruitful week on the handball courts of Leinster in the 60 x 30 competitions, with some more fantastic wins for Wexford players throughout the week.
Junior singles tops the bill where two Wexford players now remain in contention for the top honours. Paul Lambert began the week with success over Peter Flanagan from Meath on a 21-16, 2117 scoreline, however he was knocked out by a fellow county man in the next round as Darren O'Toole put together a fantastic second and third game to see off Lambert who had cruised to the first game success 21-8.
O'Toole, who powers the ball around the court, delivered the match-winning shots from there until the end and completed a 21-5, 21-13 win over Lambert.
Myles Connors is the second Wexford man left standing in the Junior singles as he powered his way along in impressive fashion, beating up and coming star Daniel Fenlon from Carlow 21-12, 21-14 and between himself and Darren O'Toole there may be gold returning to Wexford very soon.
David Kenny bowed out of the same competition, but came agonisingly close to success against Keith Kavanagh from Wicklow before eventually losing out 21-19, 19-21, 21-11.
Michael Busher and J.R. Finn are both still standing in the Junior 'B' singles after good wins in the past week. Michael Busher from Bridgetown wasted little time in hammering Sam Temple from Kildare 21-1, 21-3, however J.R. Finn had to pull out all the stops against Michael Donovan from Laois before advancing 21-15, 521, 21-15.
Gavin Buggy survived an early scare in the Over-35 singles event as Pat Quaile from Wicklow took the opening set 21-11 against the St. Mary's man, but the champion Buggy re-discovered his form and took the remaining two sets at his ease on 21-7, 21-1 scorelines.
Jason Murphy bowed out of the Under-21 championship at the penultimate stage as he was downed by Patrick Funchion from Kilkenny, with the Marble city man winning 21-11, 21-10. Donal Doyle is keeping the Wexford flag flying in the Silver Masters 'B' singles as he got over Jimmy Shanahan from Kilkenny on a 21-17, 2110 scoreline.