Tyrone GAA Handballers add 4 further All Ireland gold to record season haul…
Following the second of the GAA Handball All Ireland Championship Festival weekends in the 40×20 court, Tyrone GAA Handball have added a further four gold medals to what has been another record medal haul for the O’Neill County.
Two superb adult singles All Ireland Championship titles, following on from 2 All Ireland Juvenile 40×20 Championships and 4 Irish Junior 40×20 Nationals titles completed what has been an immense season for the Red Hand County handballers.
The last of the 2016 40×20 action will be decided this coming weekend in the Irish Adult 40×20 Nationals with a number of Tyrone players also chasing titles in that event. There is no doubt that the later than normal conclusion to the 40×20 season is taking its toll all the same with much smaller numbers in the event but key grades remain very competitive all the same.
McElduff completes magical clean sweep…
Conor McElduff created another of his own piece of unique history on Saturday when he won the Intermediate doubles championship in great style alongside Johnny Woods, having already captured the intermediate singles title a few weeks earlier. That completed a first ever clean sweep in the grade at All Ireland level by a Tyrone player with the only ever previous wins at this level being Ciaran Curran’s All Ireland Intermediate Singles triumph in 1995 and Niall Kerr and Darragh Daly’s doubles win in 2007.
One of the most popular Tyrone winners at the weekend may well have come though in one of the masters brackets as Tony McElduff and Mark McCartan clinched a truly famous victory in the Silver Masters b doubles final.
Tony and Mark have been trying to get their hands on precious All Ireland gold medals for many years and have been close on a few occasions but everything has just clicked for them in the doubles this year and they finished off their campaign in brilliant fashion when they saw off the challenge of Wexford pair, Ricky Barron and Phil Coleman, on a scoreline of 21-14, 21-18.
The Breacach partnership produced some great handball in O’Loughlin’s court in Kilkenny on Friday evening and weren’t overawed in the slightest as they recorded the biggest win of their respective careers.
For Tony, the weekend became even sweeter the following morning as his son Conor maintained his remarkable sequence in 2016 with another stunning victory in the All-Ireland intermediate doubles championship.
Conor, normally more renowned for his one-wall exploits, has claimed his first Tyrone senior singles championship title this year, to add to his premier league honours, and he has also won the Ulster intermediate singles and doubles titles, but now he has become the first Tyrone player ever to win the All-Ireland intermediate singles and doubles titles, showing he is well ready to step up to the highest level in the small court.
“2016 really has been a great 40×20 campaign for me,” enthused Conor, following his historic win over Kilkenny on Saturday. “Winning the Tyrone league and championship got me off to a great start and just skyrocketed my confidence heading into the All Ireland championships. Winning the Intermediate All Ireland singles was a big relief as great players and good friends of mine, Shane O’Neill and Ruairi Kelly, had reached the final before but narrowly missed out on the title.
Johnny Woods, fresh from his outstanding 19 and under success at the Irish nationals a week earlier in Galway, teamed up with Conor to produce a quality performance to defeat formidable Kilkenny pairing, Ciaran Neary and Brendan Burke, 21-11, 21-19.
“Adding the Intermediate doubles title with partner Johnny Woods was just the cherry on top as I was the first player from Tyrone to ever sweep the singles & doubles, but I have to say that the highlight of the year for me was watching my father Tony and his partner Mark McCartan win their first ever All Ireland title down in Kilkenny – the whole of Breacach was there to witness it and was a day that I’ll always remember.”
It certainly highlights again the importance of so many grades on offer in the GAA handball arena at National level, maintaining great interest and large numbers in attendance over the weekend too.
Not everything went perfectly to plan in Kilkenny for the large Tyrone GAA Handball contingent last weekend as the county suffered defeat in four other finals.
All Ireland minor singles champion, and recent Irish nationals winner Sean Kerr was unable to keep his brilliant winning form going when along with partner Turlough Clarke, he lost out to Cork’s Tadhg O’Neill and David Walsh in the All Ireland minor doubles decider, while Gabhain McCrystall and Pol Clarke came very close in the All Ireland under 21 double final, only to succumb in the third and deciding game to Cork’s Michael Hedigan and Daniel Relihan, 21-16.
Tyrone also suffered defeat in tiebreakers in the junior doubles and masters b doubles finals, with Barry Devlin and Ryan Daly finishing up on the wrong end of a 21-14 scoreline to Carlow in the third game of their junior final, and Seamus McCrory and Rory Grogan losing to Dublin in the Masters b final, one of their opponents being a former Tyrone senior champion, Ciaran McCallan.
While there was some disappointment for the Tyrone following in Kilkenny, the victories registered by Tony McElduff, Mark McCartan, Conor McElduff and Johnny Woods ensured it was another weekend to remember for Tyrone, in a year when four top titles were recently collected at the Irish junior nationals in Galway and four All-Irelands were secured a month ago at the singles and juvenile finals in Kingscourt.
ALL-IRELAND 40X20 DOUBLES FINALS 2016…
Minor doubles: Cork (Tadgh O’ Neill/David Walsh) beat Tyrone (Sean Kerr/Turlough Clarke) 21-14, 21-5
U21 doubles: Cork (Daniel Relihan/Michael Hedigan) beat Tyrone (Gabhain McCrystall/Pol Clarke) 21-3, 13-21, 21-16
Junior doubles: Carlow (Oliver Ryan/Daniel Fenlon) beat Tyrone (Barry Devlin/Ryan Daly) 12-21, 21-14, 21-14
Intermediate doubles: Tyrone (Johnny Woods/Conor McElduff) beat Kilkenny (Ciaran Neary/Brendan Burke) 21-11, 21-19
Masters B doubles: Dublin (Ciaran McCallan/Christy Donnelly) beat Tyrone (Seamus McCrory/Rory Grogan) 15-21, 21-10, 21-3
Silver masters B doubles: Tyrone (Mark McCartan/Tony McElduff) beat Wexford (Ricky Barron/Phil Coleman) 21-14, 21-18
Players bid for Irish Adult 40×20 Nationals in final weekend of 40×20 campaign
A small but select field will challenge for Irish Adult 40×20 Nationals grades in the final weekend of the “small court” season in Belfast. Tyrone will be represented across all grades and go in with hopes of securing those final pieces of silverware in what has been a phenomenal campaign.
Conor McElduff has opted out of the Irish Nationals weekend so Darragh Daly and Gabhain McCrystall will be Tyrone’s only challengers in the ten strong field of the Mens Open. Armagh’s Charly Shanks and Galway’s Martin Mulkerrins are the top two seeds in that event while Eile McCrory will be the O’Neill County’s only challenger in the Ladies Open competition and she faces a stern test against Cork’s Catriona Casey and Limerick’s Martina McMahom in the early stages.
Johnny Woods is top seeded in the Mens A Nationals as he bids for a third national title in his third weekend in a row and could well meet other Tyrone players such as Pol Clarke, Ryan Mullan or Shane O’Neill in pursuit of that accolade.
The action gets underway in Belfast from Saturday morning and will conclude with the Irish Nationals Finals on Sunday.