Kilkenny legend Michael 'Ducksie' Walsh secures title
IT'S BEEN a fantastic week for handball fans all over the south-east and especially fans of this amazing game in county Wexford, as the finals of the ACME Blinds and Curtains 40 x 20 winter leagues took place over a three-night period in St. Joseph's handball complex in Wexford town.
Michael 'Ducksie' Walsh versus Gavin Buggy was always going to be a crowd-puller, and the newly-developed complex in Bishopswater was bursting at the seams as more than one hundred handball fans packed into the alley for the Premier division final between the two heavyweights of south-east handball.
Walsh went unbeaten during the league stages but with Buggy playing very well in his semi-final win over Michael Gregan, a good final was expected.
The huge crowd were not disappointed as both players went hammer and tongs at this one, with Buggy winning the opening set 21-18. However, 'Ducksie' has been around a long time and his fighting qualities were laid on the table when he won the second game 21-17. In fact, he really had to dig deep in the third game as Buggy looked home and dry when leading 7-2 in this race to 11, but 'Ducksie' fought back and won the title on an 11-8 scoreline after two hours of tremendous handball.
Marguerite Gore was the number one lady in the Premier division as she got the better of Rebecca Mulholland in another Wexford v. Kilkenny battle. St. Mary's club player Gore was very impressive in her success and won the game 21-11, 21-14 against her O'Loughlin's opponent.
Division 1 was a battle of two Wicklow men, and it was another classic final as Keith Kavanagh and Pat O'Donnell gave everything to take the title across the border. Kavanagh, the younger of the two players, from Coolboy, got out of the blocks in the first game with a nervejangling 21-19 win. However, the tide began to swing in favour of Pat O'Donnell from Arklow in the second when he raced to a 21-12 win. The tie-breaker was another great game and it was Keith Kavanagh who won the day on an 11-7 scoreline.
Darren O'Toole put his intentions for the upcoming 40 x 20 season on the table in firm fashion as he defeated Daniel Fenlon from Garryhill in the final of Division 2. O'Toole from Coolgreany was very impressive and more or less dominated from start to finish in a 21-10, 21-16 win.
David Donovan secured the Division 3 title for his Tinryland club in Carlow when he played superbly to beat St. Mary's man Mark Hillis 2114, 21-12. There was another dominant display in Division 4, as this time it was the turn of John Roche from Castlebridge as he denied Tinryland a double of success when he defeated Martin Clancy on a 21-18, 21-4 scoreline.
St. Martin's provided both of the players for the Division 5 final as Seán Stanners and Frank Maddock went into battle. Stanners dominated from start to finish in a great performance to deny his clubmate on a 21-7, 21-10 scoreline.
Ballymitty, a club more associated with finding big alley champions, celebrated a double of success in the ACME Blinds and Curtains Winter league as Shane Rossiter (Division 6) and J.R. Finn (Division 7) savoured success for the blue and whites.
In the Division 6 final, Rossiter had an epic battle with Justin Heffernan from Oulart, with the south of the county man winning on a 17-21, 2117, 11-5 scoreline.
His clubmate, Finn, made sure of the double when he beat Eugene English from Ballyhogue 21-9, 21-14.
The Division 8 and 9 finals were both Wexford town derbies between players from St. Joseph's and St. Mary's. The bragging rights in the town were equal, however, as Colin Edwards (St. Joseph's) and James Murray (St. Mary's) collected their respective titles.
Edwards beat P.J. Cullen of St. Mary's on a 2118, 21-20 scoreline in the Division 8 final, while the Division 9 decider saw James Murray from St. Mary's defeat Harry Leacy from St. Joseph's 21-17, 21-16.
Noel Sinnott picked up a second title for St. Martin's during the week as he defeated P.J. Martin from Bridgetown in the final of Division 10, with the Piercestown clubman winning on a 2112, 21-5 scoreline.