McBride wins epic under-16 final as Tyrone GAA Handball take four All Ireland titles
Tyrone emerged from a memorable weekend of gripping action in Kingscourt with a final tally of four All Ireland 40×20 championship titles as Lorcan McBride secured the biggest prize at juvenile level with a famous victory in the boys’ under-16 singles decider.
Tyrone picked up two All-Ireland adult singles titles on Saturday courtesy of Eilise McCrory and Kenny Curran and those wins were then complemented by another double success for the county in the juvenile finals on Sunday as Caitlin Conway and Elizabeth McGarvey added to Lorcan McBride’s epic win with an emphatic triumph in the girls’ under-16 doubles championship.
Unfortunately the finals didn’t go to plan for all the Tyrone representatives and the unluckiest player in Kingscourt over the entire weekend was undoubtedly Michelle Warren who featured in one of the best matches of the season but finished with a truly agonising one point defeat after more than two hours on court against Kildare’s Ellen O’Connor.
Tyrone also suffered defeat in four juvenile finals on Sunday, with Clodagh Munroe and Mairead Fox losing out in the two main girls singles finals at under-14 and under-16 level, while Jonathan Owens and Jack Darcy were gallant runners-up in the boys under-14 doubles final and Clare Conway and Meabh McCrystal lost to a powerful Wexford girls doubles team in the under-17 grade.
The big story of the weekend generally was the first All Ireland senior singles title won by Armagh’s Charly Shanks but from a Tyrone viewpoint the achievement of Lorcan McBride on Sunday was the main highlight and the fact that his title win came in the most riveting match of the weekend made victory all the sweeter for the young Carrickmore star.
Lorcan was regarded as one of the hottest favourites to collect an All Ireland gold medal in Kingscourt, mainly because his opponent Josh Kavanagh has another year to play at under-16 level, but the talented young Wexford star produced the performance of his life and forced Lorcan to dig deeper than he has ever had to go before to earn victory.
The handball was of an incredible standard as the Leinster champion went on the offensive right from the very start and took the game to his Tyrone opponent, delivering a series of spectacular corner kills to let Lorcan know he had a serious battle on his hands.
However, for all the brilliant handball that Josh Kavanagh was serving up, Lorcan was able to stay strong and he looked like he was going to snatch the first game when he finally took the lead towards the end, but Kavanagh suddenly produced another amazing purple patch to clinch a stunning 21-18 win.
Many thought that the Wexford player could never sustain his sparkling efforts for the entire match and that Lorcan would go up a gear in the second game but the absorbing point for point pattern continued until the Tyrone player finally delivered an unstoppable burst to seal a 21-17 win in the second game.
Lorcan celebrated his comeback with clenched fists while his opponent looked a little deflated and the tiebreaker saw a dominant performance from the title favourite who really stamped his class on the game with a ten point victory.
The win meant a third All-Ireland gold medal in as many championship campaigns for the Carrickmore player who now joins former Tyrone juvenile stars Ciaran Curran, Padraig McGlinchey and Sean Kerr on the All-Ireland under-16 singles roll of honour.
Tyrone also picked up one of the major girls under-16 All-Ireland titles on Sunday as Caitlin Conway and Elizabeth McGarvey combined to register an emphatic win over Kilkenny’s Roisin O’Keefe and Edel Mulholland.
The Tyrone girls went into battle as slight favourites and they produced a really impressive showing, with Caitlin even weighing in with a couple of stunning rollouts.
The Loughmacrory/Breacach duo were in control throughout and they emerged as richly deserving All Ireland winners on a scoreline of 21-6, 21-7.
The result also means they have finished their 40×20 juvenile championship careers on a really high note, Caitlin going one step further than she did twelve months earlier when she lost the under-16 doubles final in agonising fashion.
Caitlin and Elizabeth have emulated Tyrone’s only previous under-16 doubles champions, Maeve McElduff and Aoife Kelly, and they have now won All-Ireland doubles titles together in both the 40×20 and 60×30 codes. Unfortunately the under-16 girls’ singles title eluded Tyrone on Sunday and remains a title that has never been won by the county, as Mairead Fox suffered defeat at the hands of impressive champion Kildare’s Leah Doyle. It was actually Mairead’s first ever 40×20 championship defeat in her career. Mairead never got her game going the way she wanted on Sunday, with injury problems having affected her training in recent weeks, but she can be proud of the fact that she reached the All Ireland under-16 singles final at the first attempt after her trailblazing exploits at under-14, and she will be able to have another crack at the title next year. The fact that she is 21 months younger than her opponent on Sunday proved crucial in the end.
Clodagh Munroe is another player who can be very proud of reaching a major All Ireland final a year ahead of schedule after reaching the under-14 singles decider.
Clodagh competed strongly against Mayo’s Hazel Finn in Sunday’s final but the Mayo girl was strong on the day and kept Clodagh at bay to win in two straight games.
The talented Carrickmore girl felt disappointed that she didn’t play to her full potential but she can take a lot of satisfaction from even reaching the final in her first year at under-14 level, and the experience will stand her in great stead for next year.
Tyrone also featured in another under-14 All-Ireland final on Sunday as Jonathan Owens and Jack Darcy took on Wexford’s Mark Doyle and Conor Murphy in the boys under-14 doubles final. Tyrone were underdogs in this one and there was little the Breacach pair could do in the opening game as Mark Doyle put on a superb exhibition of killing.
But the complexion of the match changed in the second game as the Tyrone lads began to settle to the task, with Johnny Owens really lifting his performance on the left side of the court. Johnny and Jack worked their way into a 10-6 lead and looked set to be heading for a tiebreaker but the Wexford lads suddenly went up a gear again and hit a succession of great scores to clinch the title.
Tyrone also featured in the girls’ under-17 doubles final but the Leinster opposition was really strong and the Ulster champions, Clare Conway and Meabh McCrystal, were unable to stop Wexford from claiming the gold medals in impressive fashion. Clare and Meabh can be very pleased with their achievement in reaching the final.
Overall, winning two All Ireland juvenile titles on Sunday was a fine achievement for Tyrone, especially as both titles came in the elite under-16 grade.
The two adult titles won on Saturday helped to make it a pretty good weekend all round for the county, with Eilise McCrory emerging as one of the smoothest winners of the day when she claimed the All Ireland ladies junior singles title with a bit of class.
Eilise was expected to find herself in a real battle with Kildare’s Hannah Dagg but the Breacach girl was in unstoppable form and gave a brilliant display of serving and killing to register a dominant 21-3, 21-13 victory. The Breacach star was delighted afterwards to be back playing at her best and adding another major title to her personal roll of honour.
Tyrone’s other title on Saturday came in the golden masters section as Loughmacrory’s Kenny Curran captured his first All Ireland gold medal with a fine win over Mayo’s George Millar. The experienced Connacht champion was on fire early on and raced into an eight point lead but the Tyrone player began to settle into the game and grew stronger as the match developed, eventually finding his killshot and comfortably securing his big victory on a 21-12, 21-12 scoreline.
So, overall it was four All Ireland victories from nine finals for the Tyrone representatives at the weekend, with a total of five gold medals earned by players from Loughmacrory, Breacach and Carrickmore.
ALL-IRELAND 40X20 CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS 2017
Under-14 girls singles: Mayo (Hazel Finn) beat Tyrone (Clodagh Munroe) 15-8, 15-9
Under-14 boys doubles Wexford (Conor Murphy & Mark Doyle) beat Tyrone (Jonathan Owens & Jack Darcy) 15-2, 15-10
Under-16 girls singles: Kildare (Leah Doyle) beat Tyrone (Mairead Fox) 21-10, 21-7
Under-16 girls doubles: Tyrone (Caitlin Conway & Elizabeth McGarvey) beat Kilkenny (Roisín O’Keeffe & Edel Mulholand) 21-6, 21-7
Under-16 boys singles Tyrone (Lorcan McBride) beat Wexford (Josh Kavanagh) 18-21, 21-17, 11-1
Under-17 girls doubles: Wexford (Cliodhna O’Connell & Eva Crean) beat Tyrone (Claire Conway & Meabh McCrystall) 21-2, 21-1
Golden masters b singles: Tyrone (Kenny Curran) beat Mayo (George Miller) 21-12, 21-12
Ladies junior b singles: Kildare (Ellen O’Connor) beat Tyrone (Michelle Warren) 20-21, 21-13, 21-20
Ladies junior singles: Tyrone (Eilise McCrory) beat Kildare (Hannah Dagg) 21-3, 21-13