GAA Handball: Amaro and McCann take Lough Showdown gold
An epic weekend of GAA Handball was delivered in scintillating style over the weekend in Loughmacrory as over 260 players took to the courts at the club’s One Wall Arena to contest the grades in the latest Showdown event, sponsored by Adman.
Over 330 matches in all went ahead on a comprehensive schedule at the impressive local facilities as the host club treated a vast GAA Handball fanbase to a exhilarating series of matches which climaxed late on Sunday night with the Open finals.
All eyes over the weekend were firmly focussed on Puerto Rico handball star, Wally Amaro, who had made the long journey to Ireland and the mid-Tyrone community to challenge for the title he won back in 2014. The huge crowds were not disappointed either as Amaro served up a masterclass of one wall handball to storm to a most impressive showdown title win at the expense of a high quality field.
While the hugely experienced former World champion emerged with his second Showdown crown in the mens code, the ladies open grade saw the saw the emergence of another very exciting young ladies handball star.
Armagh’s Megan McCann, at just 16 years of age, was in inspired form as she produced exceptional quality play all through the series to defeat a top class field and follow in the footsteps of Catriona Casey as the Ladies Showdown Open Champion.
Players from a total of 18 counties throughout Ireland, including large entries from Cork, Galway and Wexford, as well as Puerto Rico and Holland made for a wide ranging and dynamic showdown field of players. National and World champions graced almost all the A grades and Sunday’s Finals Day in particular saw many incredible matches go to the wire with many decided by single ace margins or even tie-breaks.
Amaro in “smashing” form in Mens Open…
Wally Amaro opened his account in the event with a 25-6 victory over Carrickmore’s Nationals B champion, Paddy McCrory, with high power smashes, angled flattened kill-shots and power drives along the lines giving an indication that he was going to take some stopping in his Mens Open challenge.
Meanwhile in the opposite half of the draw the major shock of the tournament came when local prodigy, Sean Kerr, ousted the recently crowned Mens Open Singles champion, Galway’s Martin Mulkerrins. The Moycullen clubman found himself chasing the game from an early stage as the Breacach player exhibited inspire form with consistent on the line passes, serving and exceptional retrieving seeing him open up an 18-9 lead. Despite a massive rally from the Irish Open champion, the deficit proved too great and Kerr held out to record one of his finest wins on a 25-22 scoreline.
The Mens Open semi-final actually saw one of the games of the weekend as Sean Kerr crossed swords with Cork sensation Tadhg O’Neill and the massive crowd celebrated in an electric atmosphere as both players dived and continually returned impossible looking shots and produced some phenomenal finishing too. In the end it was the Tyrone player who came from behind to just edge it at the business end of the game by 25-24.
Wally Amaro then took on Armagh star, Conall McCavitt, in another brilliant encounter and some of the powerplay in that contest was immense. McCavitt really put it up to the Puerto Rico shooter from the start and hit some superb power serves and passes but as the match progressed it was Amaro who soon took control and he smashed his way into another final on a 25-16 scoreline.
Despite the late Sunday night timing of the Mens Open Final, a massive crowd again packed around the venue for the Mens Open final. Before the action kicked into gear there was a moving moment as everyone present delivered a resounding one minute of applause to celebrate the life of legendary GAA Hanballer, Ducksy Walsh, who was actually due to play in the event.
When the first ball was served the final manifested into a real baptism of fir for the rising Tyrone star against the vastly experienced Amaro. Sean placed a perfect low serve down into the back left corner and a sensational 30 foot cross court roll-out was the reply from the 2014 champion, who was clearly signalling his intentions with that first shot of the tie.
It certainly was a fantastic element of this year’s Showdown event to not only have Amaro in action on the courts but in his exchanges with the 100s of young players over the weekend and in the Coaching camp session on the friday, there was a real exuberance throughout the area in his presence at the event overall.
From there it was an exhibition of power smashes, pinpoint serving, devastating roll-outs and deep lobs as the Tyrone player chased and rallied to stay in the game. Despite a valiant attempt from Sean, it was the international Wallball star who would storm to an emphatic second Lough Wallball Showdown title on a 25-8 scoreline.
The late withdrawal of Irish Nationals Open champion, Lorraine Havern, meant that the first contest in the grade saw Holland’s Miranda Scheffer make her first showdown appearance against Roscommon’s Lauren O’Riordain. Scheffer has been impressing in recent seasons with some eye-catching wins on the European Pro Wallball tour but was tested to the full in that opening quarter final match, before prevailing on a 25-19 scoreline.
Tyrone’s Maeve McElduff had to dig deep in one of the toughest encounters of the day to set up a semi final against the dutch star, as she edged past former three-times world champion, Antrim’s Fiona Shannon on a 25-23 scoreline. In the opposite half of the draw Tyrone’s Eilise McCrory had a 25-16 victory against Antrim’s Sibeal Gallagher while teenager, Armagh’s Megan McCann, made a most impressive Ladies Open debut with a 25-12 victory against galway’s Sinead Hanley.
The first semi final was a top class contest as McElduff and Scheffer proved almost inseparable throughout but it was McElduff who found her range more consistently as the tie progresses and with some decisive killshots opened up a 6 ace advantage which she maintained before winning out 25-19. Meanwhile Megan McCann really came of age in her semi final against McCrory and unleashed a most impressive arsenal of power drives and kills to run out a commanding winner by 25-8.
Another packed arena saw a terrific contest ensure with little separating the two talented players all through. At 13-12 to McElduff though it was the Clann Eireann player who then shot clear with six successive top class serves and follow-up passes to go 18-13 ahead. McElduff showed her quality with a quick fire triple kill response but McCann held her nerve and pushed clear to win her first Open title by 25-16.
The Mens and Ladies open finals concluded what was a super weekend of handball by the Lough. The quality in particular in the junior grades really lit up the weekend, which also had so many other memorable moments including the appearance of Tyrone GAA Manager, Mickey Harte, with the Anglo Celt Cup, our special guest at the weekend – incoming GAA Handball Ireland President, Joe Masterson, and a packed Clubhouse for ‘Mad for the Road’ on the Saturday night with many of the players joining in as part of a highly entertaining trad music session.
High quality delivery in the Junior grades…
In the Boys Junior grades young Gavin Kelly showed himself as a name to look out for with an accomplished display alongside Loughmacrory’s young Caolan Grimes to win the Boys Under 10 doubles title against Carrickmore’s Shea Munroe and Kevin Cuddy. Kilkenny’s Kyle Jordan was certainly one player who caught everybody’s eye with his dazzling repertoire of two handed kill and pass shots in winning the Boys 11 & Under grade. Josh Kavanagh just edged a brilliant Boys 13 & Under grade when he overcame Galway’s Mikey Kelly 14-13, after the latter had a 5-3 tie-break semi final win against Wexford’s Mark Doyle.
Tyrone GAA Manager, Mickey Harte; GAA Handball Ireland President elect, Joe Masterson and Puerto Rico Handball star, Wally Amaro, are pictured with some of the young Loughmacrory GAA Handball players at this weekend’s Lough Wallball Showdown.
The Boys 15 & Under grade went to World 13 & Under champion, Galway’s Jason O’Toole, but he just got over the line against Roscommon’s Fionn Cusack by 17-16. Carrickmore’s Cormac Munroe came through a strong field in the Boys 17 & Under singles event to defeat Louth’s Ben Devlin in the final by 21-9.
In the Girls She’s Ace Junior grades the Under 10 doubles went to local young players, Tara Curran and Laura Duff, while Wexford’s Jodie Keeling was a very impressive winner against Loughmacrory’s Dearbhail Fox in the Girls 11 & Under final, winning 25-18. The Girls 13 & Under final proved to be a titanic struggle with Irish Nationals winner, Loughmacrory’s Mairead Fox, firstly leading 9-6 when Carrickmore’s Clodagh Munroe required an injury time-out. When action resumed the two highly talented young players battled out a fantastic conclusion to the game. Then, with just 13 seconds to go on the clock, Clodagh had just served an ace to make it 11-11, but in doing so Mairead Fox sustained a serious back injury and was unable to complete the tie. Clodagh was thus awarded the Girls 13 & under honours for 2016 and without question highlighted the very exciting future that both young Tyrone players have ahead of them.
The Girls 15 & Under division brought a win for Kildare’s Leah Doyle who produced an impressive final display to get the better of local talent, Loughmacrory’s Caitlin Conway. Megan McCann added her second title of the showdown weekend when scoring a 25-4 win against Sligo’s Laura Finn.
At adult level it was Galway’s Martin Mulkerrins who regained his five-star form to deny Shane O’Neill, Sean Digney and Paddy McCrory to claim a highly convincing Mens A title win, taking the honours in the final by 25-7. Louth’s Mark McCulllough denied fellow clubman, Billy Caddell, to take the Mens B honours and it was Cork’s Eoghan Sheehan who had a 14-13 victory over Loughmacrory’s Paul Donnelly in the Mens C Final.
The Mens Challenger honours went to County Down as Barrie McCoy was a 25-9 winner against Carrickmore’s Jerry Keenan while Loughmacrory’s Niall Toner took his first Showdown trophy with a 21-11 win against Declan Doyle in the Mens Contender final. At Masters (35+) level it was Louth’s John Boyle who took the showdown honours when he claimed a 17-10 win against Antrim’s Sean Devine in the final and Breacach’s Niall Kerr won the Silver Masters (45+) honours with a 25-15 win against Clare’s Fergal Coughlan in the final. Down’s Brian Havern was the Diamond Masters (55+) winner on the weekend with his win over Louth’s Sean Devlin eliding the honours there.
The ladies adult grades brought a win for three times world champion, Antrim’s Fiona Shannon in the Ladies A Singles decider against Galway’s Sinead Hanley while sligo’s Laura Finn claimed the Ladies B honours with an eye-catching victory against Kildare’s Ellen O’Connor in the final. The Ladies C title was won in the end by Down’s Mary Havern who got the better of Breacach player, Cloideach Donaghy, in the final by 25-14 while Loughmacrory’s Clare Conway celebrated her first big success at the showdown when scoring a thrilling 14-13 victory over Down’s Michelle McCoy in the Ladies Challenger final. Breacach’s Aine Farley took the Ladies Contender honours with her victory against Catherine Kelly in the final.
Overall it proved to be another hugely successful event from the Loughmacrory GAA Handball Club with hundred’s of players and spectators revelling in a terrific atmosphere over the three days of action. The social benefits and immense growth and promotion which has been derived from the tournament has already been seen and it already looks like future Lough Showdown Tournaments could continue to rise in terms of numbers and popularity.
For now though it is Wally Amaro and Megan McCann who go on that prestigious Open roll of honour as the One Wall (Wallball) season drew to a close in Loughmacrory at the weekend.
Full PHOTO GALLERY to follow
Results round-up at Lough Wallball Showdown 2016:
ADMAN Mens Open Singles Semi Finals:
Wally Amaro (Puerto Rico) dft Conall McCavitt (Armagh) 25-16
Sean Kerr (Tyrone) dft Tadhg O’Neill (Cork) 25-24
ADMAN Mens Open Final: Wally Amaro (Puerto Rico) dft Sean Kerr (Tyrone) 25-8
ADMAN Ladies She’s Ace Open Singles semi finals:
Megan McCann (Armagh) dft Eilise McCrory (Tyrone) 25-8
Maeve McElduff (Tyrone) dft Miranda Scheffer (Holland) 25-19
ADMAN Ladies Open Singles Final: Megan McCann (Armagh) dft Maeve McElduff (Tyrone) 25-16
Mens A Singles Semi Finals:
Martin Mulkerrins (Galway) dft Sean Digney (Down) 25-9
Paddy McCrory (Tyrone) dft Kees Van Der Schoot (Holland) 16-16, 5-4
Mens A Final: Martin Mulkerrins (Galway) dft Paddy McCrory (Tyrone) 25-7
Mens B Final: Mark McCullough (Louth) dft Billy Caddell (Louth) 19-13
Mens C Final: Eoghan Sheehan (Cork) dft Paul Donnelly (Loughmacrory) 14-13
Mens Challenger Final: Barrie McCoy (Down) dft Jerry Keenan (Carrickmore) 25-9
Mens Contender Final: Niall Toner (Loughmacrory) dft Declan Doyle (Wexford) 21-11
Masters (35+) Final: John Boyle (Louth) dft Sean Devine (Antrim) 17-10
Masters (35+) B Final: Eamonn McCrory (Breacach) dft Paul Graham (Antrim) 18-12B
Silver Masters (45+) Final: Niall Kerr (Breacach) dft Fergal Coughlan (Clare) 25-15
Silver Masters (45+) B Final: Kenny Curran (Loughmacrory) dft Paul Cassidy (Monaghan) 17-9
Diamond Masters (55+) Final: Brian Havern (Down) dft Sean Devlin (Louth) 14-13
Ladies She’s Ace A Final: Fiona Shannon (Antrim) dft Sinead Hanley (Galway) 18-18, 5-3
Ladies She’s Ace B Final: Laura Finn (Sligo) dft Ellen O’Connor (Kildare) 17-14
Ladies She’s Ace C Final: Mary Havern (Down) dft Cloideach Donaghy (Breacach) 25-14
Ladies She’s Ace Challenger Final: Clare Conway (Loughmacrory) dft Michelle McCoy (Down) 14-13
Ladies She’s Ace Contender Final: Aine Farley (Breacach) dft Catherine Kelly (Breacach) 22-13
Boys Under 10 Doubles Final: Gavin Kelly (Galway) & Caolan Grimes (Loughmacrory) dft Shea Munroe & Conor Cuddy (Carrickmore) 25-13
Boys Under 10 B Doubles Final: Sean Kennedy & Martin Coyle (Pomeroy) dft Ryan McCallan & Phelim Quinn (Pomeroy) 25-9
Boys 11 & Under Final: Kyle Jordan (Kilkenny) dft Sean Callan (Monaghan) 21-9
Boys 11 & Under B Final: Eoin Donaghy (Loughmacrory) dft Fergal Magee (Monaghan) 16-13
Boys 13 & Under Final: Josh Kavanagh (Wexford) dft Mikey Kelly (Galway) 14-13
Boys 13 & Under B Final: Zak Devine (Loughmacrory) dft Cormac Finn (Sligo) 20-14
Boys 15 & Under Final: Jason O’Toole (Galway) dft Fionn Cusack (Roscommon) 17-16
Boys 15 & Under B Final: Daire Savage (Down) dft Conan McElholm (Loughmacrory) 16-11
Boys 17 & Under Final: Cormac Munroe (Carrickmore) dft Ben Devlin (Louth) 21-9
Boys 17 & Under B Final: Connor Walsh (Cork) dft Niall Delany (Cork) 21-5
Girls She’s Ace Under 10 Doubles Final: Tara Curran & Laura Duff (Loughmacrory) dft Meadhbh Gallagher (Antrim) & Hazel O’Toole (Galway) 25-9
Girls She’s Ace 11 & Under Final: Jodie Keeling (Wexford) dft Dearbhail Fox (Loughmacrory) 25-18
Girls She’s Ace 11 & Under B Final: Bronagh Farley (Breacach) dft Laura Duff (Loughmacrory) 18-12
Girls She’s Ace 13 & Under Final: Clodagh Munroe (Carrickmore) dft Mairead Fox (Loughmacrory) 11-11, ret inj.
Girls She’s Ace 13 & Under B Final: Ellie Jane Quinn (Pomeroy) dft Dervla Farley (Breacach) 13-9
Girls She’s Ace 15 & Under Final: Leah Doyle (Kildare) dft Caitlin Conway (Loughmacrory) 25-10
Girls She’s Ace 15 & Under B Final: Carragh Shannon (Antrim) dft Grace Shannon (Antrim) 16-12
Girls She’s Ace 17 & Under Final: Megan McCann (Armagh) dft Laura Finn (Sligo) 25-4