McElduff dominant as Tyrone GAA Handballers maintain push at the top of the National tree…

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Tyrone GAA Handball continues to go from strength to strength across all codes of the game and there have again been some terrific moves and developments in 2017.

It is on the playing courts that the O’Neill County has made tremendous strides again with Breacach club man, Conor McElduff, continuing to lead the way in that respect. McElduff has returned to the sport in 2017 in devastating fashion, particularly in the rapidly growing One Wall code of the game. Having returned in July to Breaffy Sports Arena, Conor delivered a series of outstanding displays to claim a third One Wall Nationals Mens Open title in four years, with a final win over Armagh’s Charly Shanks. A first-ever All Ireland Senior Singles championship title then followed at the 2017 Wallball All Ireland Championships, when denying reigning champion, Limerick’s Paudi Quish and 2016 Irish Nationals Champion, Galway’s Martin Mulkerrins on route to that famous triumph.

 

Conor McElduff has very much become the dominant figure in One Wall Handball now in Ireland and he is now translating that success into an assault on the International scene too. There is a very strong European Pro Wallball Championships underway since 2015 and the Tyrone star has already made his mark in that domain. Last weekend he travelled to Valencia in Spain to secure the first One Wall Major of the new 2017/2018 season, in claiming the Spanish Open Singles and Doubles titles. That came after 13 matches in just two days, a gruelling challenge, but a most comprehensive win in the end for McElduff.

Conor McElduff has swept the board in the Wallball code of GAA Handball not just in Ireland but now in Europe too.

With the impressive growth of one wall handball in Ireland being the most redeeming factor of the sport at present, Tyrone have also enjoyed some other considerable success in that sphere in 2017 too. At the One Wall Nationals in July, Tyrone captured four Grade A titles overall. Caitlin Conway emerged with her first Nationals Singles crown in winning the Girls 15&U title, Sean Kerr maintained his excellent run up the ladder with a brilliant series of displays to win the prestigious Boys 19&U title and Niall Kerr collected in the Silver Masters A nationals event.

In the new-look All Ireland One Wall Championships, launched in 2016 by GAA Handball Ireland, Dara Curran became the first winner of an All Ireland Gold in the competitions when he secured the Under 17 All Ireland championship title, one year young in the grade, and this should be an area for further success down the line with Dara being the only ever Tyrone juvenile all ireland Wallball championship winner so far.

Conor McElduff, of course, ensured that second gold medal in the championships with his historic blue ribband All Ireland Mens Open Senior Singles championship triumph.

When the end of season awards came up last week there was little surprise when Conor McElduff (Handballer of the Year) and Lorcan McBride (Young Handballer of the Year) scooped the top gongs at the prestigious Teamtalkmag Tyrone GAA All Star Awards. Although it was a most successful year all-round for Tyrone handballers and a host of candidates who would have been very worthy winners in many other seasons!

Tyrone won 2 All Ireland Wallball championship titles in 2017, with Conor McElduff (Men’s Open) and Dara Curran (Boys Under 17) and four Irish Wallball Nationals titles through Conor McElduff (Men’s Open), Niall Kerr (Silver Masters), Sean Kerr (Boys 19&U) and Caitlin Conway (Girls 15&U) in 2017.

Impressive growth…

The growth of One Wall Handball in Tyrone has been immense and has been highlighted by the continued One Wall Schools Handball Initiative, launched back in 2010. With so many schools, including St. Ciaran’s College (Ballygawley), Holy Trinity College (Cookstown), Dean Maguirc College (Carrickmore) and St. Joseph’s College (Coalisland) leading the way in terms of competing in events and in their one-wall facilities, many more schools in the county are now following suit. Indeed, Ulster GAA hosted a hugely successful “She’s Ace One Wall Handball Day” in Loughmacrory back in March and saw over 120 girls from schools all around the county participate in coaching sessions, games, nutritional and fitness modules on the day.

Sponsor: Hughie Ruadh’s Bar and Restaurant, Mountfield

Loughmacrory GAA Handball Club has the most unique One Wall Complex in the Country and in July hosted the biggest single Tournament, aside from the GAA Handball One-Wall Nationals, with the 2017 Adman Lough Wallball Showdown. Over 220 competitors, including all the very best players in Ireland across all codes, traveled to compete for all the major titles at the three-day event, which saw Nationals Champions, Conor McElduff and Martina McMahon (Limerick), take the top Open titles.

The 60×30 GAA Handball season came to a close last month and saw the County win it’s only All Ireland Adult Championship title in 2017 in the traditional ‘Big Court’. That victory came in most impressive fashion as Ryan Mullan and Sean Kerr teamed up to defeat Kilkenny in emphatic style in the All Ireland Under 21 Doubles Championship final.

In the Juvenile 60×30 championships, Caitlin Conway and Elizabeth McGarvey (Girls U16 Doubles) capped a memorable year with their title win in the court bringing a clean sweep in that category at All Ireland level while Mairead Fox (Girls U16S) and Brian McAleer and Jack Darcy (Boys U15 Doubles) winning through to All Ireland Juvenile 60×320 Championship finals but falling at the final hurdle.

Tyrone captured four all Ireland Championship titles at the Juvenile Finals and Adult Singles Finals Festival Weekend in Kingscourt with (clockwise, L to r): Caitlin Conway and Elizabeth McGarvey (U16 Doubles), Lorcan McBride (Under 16 Singles), Eilise McCrory (Junior Singles) and Kenny Curran (Golden Masters B Singles. 

McBride catches the eye with 40×20 title win…

Tyrone enjoyed another very good run in the 40×20 back in March and April with Lorcan McBride the big winner in that sphere with his impressive all Ireland Under 16 Singles Championship success. As well as becoming just the 4th ever tyrone player to win the All Ireland Under 16 Singles 40×20 Championship title, following on from Ciaran Curran (1989 & 1990), Padraic McGlinchey (2004) and Sean Kerr (2014), McBride also celebrated US Junior Nationals title wins in the 15&Under Grade back in December 2016.

At the Adult 40×20 Doubles Championship finals weekend, Sean Kerr and Shane O’Neill (left) won the Intermediate Doubles title and Ryan Mullan and Johnny Woods (right) win the Under 21 doubles honours.

The Carrickmore player was one of five All Ireland 40×20 Championship title winners for the County in 2017 with Caitlin Conway and Elizabeth McGarvey (Girls U16 Doubles), Eilise McCrory (Ladies Junior Singles) and Kenny Curran (Golden Masters B Singles) also on target for the O’Neill County in the small court championships.

The top adult championship title in the 40×20 this year undoubtedly went the way of Sean Kerr and Shane O’Neill who secured a second successive All Ireland Intermediate 40×20 Doubles Championship title for Tyrone.

In addition to the 40×20 Championships, there was an eye-catching win for young Clodagh Munroe in the Irish Nationals 13&U Singles competition while the Carrickmore player, along with Loughmacrory’s mairead Fox, ended the 2017 calendar year with title wins at the prestigious Golden Gloves Annual Tournament in Belfast last weekend. The latter also reached 4 national finals in 2017 while in the Colleges sphere, Omagh CBS’ Antoin Fox and Lorcan McBride win the Intermediate doubles honours in the 40×20. Tyrone were also the dominant force across all provincial championships in all three codes of the sport in 2017!

Breacach also became just the 3rd Club team ever from the O’Neill County to reach an All Ireland Open Senior Club Championship Final. The team of Conor McElduff, Shane O’Neill, Johnny Woods and Pol Clarke lost out to Kells of Meath in the Senior 40×20 Club decider at the weekend, in what was a first appearance in the final since Loughmacrory in 2007.

GAA Handball All Ireland 40×20 Adult Singles – Finals

GMBS: Tyrone (Kenny Curran) dft Mayo (George Miller) 21-12, 21-12
LJBS: Kildare (Ellen O’Connor) dft Tyrone (Michelle Warren) 20-21, 21-13, 21-20
LJS: Tyrone (Eilise McCrory) dft Kildare (Hannah Dagg) 21-3, 21-13

GAA Handball All Ireland 40×20 Adult Doubles – Finals

U21D: Tyrone (Johnny Woods/Ryan Mullan) dft Kilkenny (Brian Mahon/Emmet Landy) 21-19, 21-13
ID: Tyrone (Shane O Neill/Sean Kerr) dft Kilkenny (Ciaran Neary/Brendan Burke) 219-21, 21-19, 21-5
SMBD: Kilkenny (Willie Holden/David Bourke) dft Tyrone (Kenny Curran/Finbarr Fullen) 21-18, 21-13
LJBD: Roscommon (Siobhan Tully/Linda Connolly) dft Tyrone (Michelle Warren/Cloideach Donaghy) 21-4, 21-2 

GAA Handball All-Ireland 40×20 Juvenile – Finals

GU14 Singles: Mayo (Hazel Finn) dft Tyrone (Clodagh Munroe) 15-8, 15-9
GU16 Singles: Kildare (Leah Doyle) dft Tyrone (Mairead Fox) 21-10, 21-7
GU16 Doubles: Tyrone (Caitlin Conway/Elizabeth McGarvey) dft Kilkenny (Roisín O’Keeffe/Edel Mulholand) 21-6, 21-7
GU17 Doubles: Wexford (Cliodhna O’Connell/Eva Crean) dft Tyrone (Claire Conway/Meabh McCrystall) 21-2, 21-1
BU14 Doubles: Wexford (Conor Murphy/Mark Doyle) dft Tyrone (Jonathan Owens/Jack Darcy) 15-2, 15-10
BU16 Singles: Tyrone (Lorcan McBride) dft Wexford (Josh Kavanagh) 18-21, 21-17, 11-1

GAA Handball 40×20 Junior Nationals – Finals

G13&U: Clodagh Munroe (Tyr) dft Hazel Finn (May) 15-10, 15-12
G19&U: Fiona Tully (Ros) dft Eilise McCrory (Tyr) 15-12, 15-10
B15&U: Josh Kavanagh (Wex) dft Lorcan McBride (Tyr) 15-11, 15-11
B19&U: Diarmuid Mulkerrins (Gal) dft Sean Kerr (Tyr) 5-15, 15-12, 11-5

GAA Handball Wall Ball Nationals – Finals

MO: Conor McElduff (Tyr) dft Charlie Shanks 15-12, 15-5
SM: Niall Kerr (Tyr) dft Chris Curran (Tyr) 23-18
B19&U: Sean Kerr (Tyr) dft Jamie Kelly (Gal) 13-13, 5-2
G15&U:    Caitlin Conway (Tyr) dft Claire Reynolds (Mayo) 21-11
MC: Oisin O Culain (Gal) dft Conor Duff (Tyr) 17-9

GAA Handball Wall Ball Championships – Finals

MO: Tyrone (Conor McElduff) dft Galway (Martin Mulkerrins) 15-10, 15-14
BU17: Tyrone (Dara Curran) dft Kilkenny (Eoin Brennan) 15-9, 15-9
BU15: Galway (Mikey Kelly) dft Tyrone (Cahir Munroe) 10-15, 15-5, 11-4
GU15: Kilkenny (Noelle Dowling) dft Tyrone (Mairead Fox) 15-7, 13-15, 11-7

GAA Handball All Ireland 60×30 Adult Singles – Finals

U21S: Kilkenny (Brian Mahon) dft Tyrone (Ryan Mullan) 21-12, 21-9
GMBS: Kildare (Brendan Higginbotham) dft Tyrone (Kenny Curran) 21-5, 21-9

GAA Handball All Ireland 60×30 Juvenile Championship Finals 2017

GU16S: Kildare (Mollie Dagg) dft Tyrone (Mairead Fox) 21-11, 21-11
GU14S: Kilkenny (Amy Brennan) dft Tyrone (Cloda McNamee) 15-6, 15-8
GU16D: Tyrone (Caitlin Conway & Elizabeth McGarvey) dft Kilkenny (Noelle Dowling & Roisin O’Keeffe) 21-13, 21-11
BU15D: Wexford (Diarmuid Moore & Dean O’Neill) dft Tyrone (Brian McAleer & Jack Darcy) 8-15, 15-5, 15-6

Overall, Tyrone GAA Handball remains at the forefront of major national title challengers in Ireland and there remains great work going on across the Clubs in the County. While there are many tough challenges facing the sport in the province and country as a whole, Tyrone continues to push the boundaries in an attempt to maintain growth, development, and success in the sport.

There were many disappointments from a Tyrone perspective too, both on and off the court, but with the new season in the 40×20 already underway and, following a two year break, the resumption of the Tyrone 40×20 leagues has been a welcome boost while the Championships in 40×20 will also be back on the agenda again come January 2018.

 

Major work is still required at National level in terms of the overcrowded and unbalanced ‘Annual Calendar’ and there remains serious issues to address in terms of the standards and numbers involved in 60×30 handball, but the huge growth and development across a much broader and wider audience in ‘Wallball’ is something that is expected to be ‘logically’ capitalised upon in 2018 for the continued good of the sport and the Association as a whole.

The All Ireland Wallball championships are evidently a major boost in that respect and with a more structured approach to a more meaningful season in Wallball and 60×30, in the same way as 40×20, then the sport can continue to strive forward across all the codes – thus enhancing growth in numbers, quality, participation and in profile.

Continued major promotion of GAA Handball in Ulster continued with Ulster GAA hosting a She’s Ace Handball Conference for over 130 girls from schools across the province in Loughmacrory’s OW Arena

With the next World Handball Championships (every 3 years) coming in August 2018 in Minessotta (USA), Tyrone players will be optimistic of a big showing at the showpiece world handball event also.

If you would like to check out how to take up the sport or have a look at Tyrone GAA Handball you can check out www.tyronelife.com/category/handball/ for the latest news, stories, and profiles in Tyrone handball while information on how to set up a club, court or coaching resources can be found at www.gaahandball.ie

Some of the big stories in Tyrone GAA Handball on Tyrone Life in 2017…
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