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Fantastic day of handball in Kilkenny

posted 13 Nov 2011, 09:08 by Unknown user   [ updated 13 Nov 2011, 09:09 ]

A capacity crowd enjoyed another fantastic day of handball in the O'Loughlin's Gaels club in Kilkenny on Sunday with a fantastic series of finals providing top class entertainment on the day. With the six key finals deciding the 2011 Irish Junior International GAA Handball Team to travel to Tucson, Arizona, there was of course added intrigue and excitement surrounding the ties.


A record 352 youth players participated in this year's event, with a hugely talented field in every grade. With the cream of youth handball in Ireland continuing to rise in numbers significantly with every season, this has again provided a terrific advertisement for the future strength of the game. Indeed, with the eagerly anticipated World Championships coming to Ireland, at Dublin's Citywest Events Centre, in just twelve months time the profile of the game is currently enjoying an all-time high. 


A total of 13 venues in Kilkenny, Carlow and Laois provided the setting for this year's Nationals and on Saturday in O'Loughlin's the Boys and Girls 11 & Under events exhibited fantastic skill and excitement for the massive entry and packed spectator base. In the end, following over 60 matches in the grades, the Boys title was won by the host county, Clogh's Ciaran Cooney and Kyle Dunne as they defeated St. Coman's (Roscommon) Michael Egan and Dylan Hanley in an 11-9 tie-break. The Girls final also saw fantastic skills served up with Leah Doyle and Niamh Masterson, from the Leixlip club in Kildare, claiming the honours against the combination of Dearbhla Coleman (Clann Eireann, Armagh) and Ciara Clarke (Carrickmore, Tyrone) by 11-7, 11-9.


girls 19 & under presentation

The final action from Sunday morning, at which a huge crowd have packed into O'Loughlin's two courts, began in some style as Galway's Ciana Ní Churraoin, from the Inverin club, claimed the 15 & Under Singles title for the second time with a 21-6, 21-11 win over Brackey's (Tyrone) Maeve McElduff. That win secured the Inverin clubplayers place on the Irish team and she was quickly followed onto the team by St Coman's (Roscommon) Lauren O'Riordain, who had a terrific tussle with Cappagh's (Limerick) Martina McMahon. Both players were deadlocked for long periods in the opening game until O'Riordain broke at 12-12 and began to move away with a 21-14, 21-14 victory.


The girls lineup in the Irish Junior team was completed following the Girls 19 & Under final, which also decided the ladies Irish Junior Team Captain for 2011. There was little surprise too as Cork's Catriona Casey, from the Ballydesmond club, maintained her incredible winning sequence at all levels to overcome Westmeath's Aoife McCarthy in the final on a 21-3, 21-4 scoreline to claim the honours. 


While that decided the Irish ladies Junior team for 2011, the boys finals are now underway and first up in those was the hugely anticipated showdown involving Mallow's (Cork) Killian Carroll and Martin Mulkerrins, from the Moycullen club in Galway. Carroll, who won the Irish and US 17 & under title in 2010 and took the All Ireland minor honours in 2011, had shown all his class to overcome Clare's Christopher Philpott and Wicklow's Keith Kavanagh to reach the final. Mulkerrins, who won the All Ireland minor crown in 2011 had a sensational semi-final match-up with Kildare's gifted teenager, Niall O'Connor, and had to go a tie-break before claiming his place in this year's final.


girls 17 & under finals

That match opened at the expected blistering pace with amazing speed and finishing displayed by the two hugely talented young stars of the Irish game. Carroll though had an incredible start to the game and had amazingly opened up a 9-1 lead. While Mulkerrins continued to play deep and keep Carroll away from the supposed danger zone, it simply highlighted the amazing repertoire of skills of the Mallow player as he delivered some sensational long range kills. He sustained his eight point advantage to lead by 15-7 and went on to claim the opening game 21-13. The start of the second game produced a turnaround however as it was Mulkerrins who really began to deliver with incredible precision and power. His serving, which brought a series of low hard spinning drives, put him very much on the front foot and he lead by 9-2 and also kept that 7 point lead for some time before sitting at 14-7. Carroll did continue to keep his offensive game going however and it remained keenly contested as Mulkerrins stayed four points ahead, at 18-14 and then closed out the game 21-15. The tie-break was equally close and Carroll's serving possibly the difference as the deciding game unfolded. He shot 8-4 and then 9-6 in front and while Mulkerrins added another ace, Carroll took the title with two brilliant serves and follow-up kill shots.


That result thus means the 2011 irish Junior Boys and Girls captains will both come from Cork with Killian Carroll and Catriona Casey leading that team in 6 weeks time for the trip to USA. The Management team of Meath's Tom Sheridan and Paula Clarke has also been announced on Sunday in O'Loughlin's as preparations begin for that event.



Meanwhile the Boys 15 & Under event produced a few surprise results on Saturday with the defeat of a number of high ranked players epitomising the impressive standards in this grade. Clare's Colin Corbett, from Tulla club, looked ominously good in his path to the final and denied Meath's Robert Fox and Wicklow's Daniel Curry before defeating county colleague, Fergal Coughlan, by 21-6, 21-8 in the penultimate stage of the event. In the other half of the draw, Ramunas Ramuskas (Monaghan) had a superb 11-8 tie-break victory over Tyrone's Johnny Woods and then denied Clare's Brian Foley in the last eight stage. He fell at the semi-finals though to Kells clubman, Evan Sheridan (Meath), who also produced top class form to beat Oisin Foley (Wexford) and JJ English (Kilkenny) before enjoying that semi-final win over Ramuskas by 21-14, 21-15.


The Boys 17 & Under Singles nationals event is arguably the most competitive and some of the results delivered on Saturday possibly emphasised the point. Tulla's Niall Bolton (Clare) caused a real stir as he overcame Monaghan's Darren Doherty and Calre's Barry Nash in his opening round games but he fell then to Leitrim's rising star, Donal Wrynn, by 21-7, 21-8, with Fenagh clubman having overcome Tyrone's Gabhainn McCrystall and Cork's Pa Herlihy in the Saturday's round of games. Number one seed for the event was All Ireland Under 16 Singles champion, Colin Crehan, and he certainly justified the tag in his run to the final. Crehan was unerring in his use of court in all three games as he cruised into the decider with wins over Patrick Fitzgerald (Clare), Galen Riordain (Wexford) and Pa Herlihy (Cork). 


The latter two finals will conclude the Nationals weekend later today.


Full details of other finals and results roundup and pictures will follow...