Unprecedented One Wall Nationals success for Tyrone
A fantastic weekend of One Wall Handball action in the brilliant Breaffy Sports Arena Complex, came to a close on Sunday evening and what an event it again proved to be for Tyrone players. There is no doubt that this is another golden era on the courts of play for Red Hand County handballers and over the weekend the O’Neill County possibly enjoyed it’s best ever National event.
Tyrone contested a total of 14 finals over the course of the Nationals weekend and secured an impressive tally of nine of those titles. The major headline of the weekend however came in the Mens Open Singles event. Armagh’s Charly Shanks and Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy had won five of the previous eight One Wall Nationals Mens Open titles between them and many predicted another major showdown between that duo. Tyrone duo Conor McElduff and Darragh Daly had different ideas however and McElduff produced an outstanding win in the ‘game of the weekend’ to finish level with Shanks at 18-18 after 20 minutes of play before winning through on a 5-3 tie-break scoreline. Darragh Daly then overcame Robbie McCarthy with an eye-catching display in the second semi final to set up an historic first ever all Tyrone Open title showdown.
The final was a repeat of the Ulster Mens Open semi final one week earlier and again it was the Breacach star who found his rhythm to reach his very best form on the biggest stage of all. McElduff delivered a series of fantastic pass-shots to the lines, lobs and offensive play from front court and powered his way to a first National Mens Open title on a 15-9, 15-3 scoreline.
Elsewhere it was again significant that Breacach remain to the forefront of major accolades this season. In Sean Kerr, who produced another exceptional display to claim a hugely competitive Boys 15 & Under event, is surely one of the stars of the weekend. His dazzling displays earned him the attention of the Team Edtl Star Handball Team as he became the latest player to join those ranks. Kerr once again denied Wexford’s highly regarded young talent, Daniel Kavanagh, by 22-15 in a terrific final.
Johnny Woods could not have been more emphatic in his challenge for silverware in 2014. Following an historic All Ireland Minor Singles and Doubles Championship double in the 40×20 court earlier this year he has now added the prestigious Nationals Boys 19 & Under title, despite still having a year to play in the grade. Johnny had a fantastic final win over Cork’s Ryan Harkin while Carrickmore’s Lorcan McBride served up a series of battling displays to come away with the Boys 13 & Under Singles crown. A 18-18 draw in his semi final with Eibhin Dillon (Galway) and a 5-3 tie-break win over that player was then followed by a 20-19 final win against Monaghan’s Eoghan McGinnity.
Loughmacrory picked up their One Wall Nationals title at the weekend in the Girls 11 & Under Doubles event as the Fox sisters, Mariead and Dearbhail, added the One Wall Nationals title to the 40×20 title won in April, defeating the strong Clare/Monaghan partnership in the final.
There was another national triumph also for Breacach’s Niall Kerr who was a convincing winner of the Silver Masters A Singles event at the One Wall Nationals. A 31-7 final win over Wicklow’s Matthew Patterson earned Kerr his third One Wall Nationals success in recent years while Michelle Warren added to her recent Ulster One Wall Championship success by defeating Down’s Annie Havern in the Ladies Challenger Final.
There were a number of B Singles successes for Tyrone players at the One Wall Nationals also. Cahir Munroe, despite having another year in the grade, won a very competitive Boys 13 & Under B Singles with excellent handball all through the competition and Carrickmore’s Ciaran Cuddy added the Boys 15 & Under B Singles title with a series of very good performances in another big number grade, defeating Mallow’s Niall Delaney in the final.
A total of nine titles secured and the County also went close in a number of other finals. In the Masters Singles final, Loughmacrory’s Chris Curran came up against Kilkenny legend, Ducksy Walsh and after a tough encounter lost out by 22-18. Carrickmore’s Niall Allison had produced terrific form all through the Boys 17 & Under grade and gave a brilliant account of himself against Galway’s Jamie Kelly in the final, only to lose out by five aces in the end. Breacach’s Eilise MCCrory again reached another major final as she set up a Girls 17 & Under final test against Armagh’s Niamh Coleman but found that hurdle too tough this time around, falling by eight aces in the end. Michaela McCartan went close to completing a mother and daughter weekend double when winning through to the final of the Girls 15 & Under B Singles but lost out at the last stage of the competition. Breacach’s Matthew McCartan was also a very unlucky loser in the Boys 17 & Under B Singles semi final as he finished all swear with eventual tournament winner, Keith Armstrong, after the time had elapsed and then suffered a 5-1 tie-break defeat in a highly entertaining game. Caitlin Conway was another Tyrone player who came home with silverware at the weekend, winning the Girls 13 & Under combined doubles Plate, with Limerick’s Keri Murphy.
Maeve McElduff also gets a special mention as, at just 18 years of age, put in a strong showing in the Ladies Open, losing out to Netherlands star, Miranda Scheffer, by 30-27 in an absorbing Ladies Open quarter final.
A massive weekend of handball in spectacular surroundings. Once again the atmosphere was electric all weekend in Castlebar and with non-stop high octane action from the opening games on Friday afternoon, this will again be a handball weekend which will provide great memories for all who attended.
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watch Mens Open Singles Final: Conor McElduff (Breacach, Tyrone) dft Darragh Daly (Carrickmore, Tyrone) 15-9, 15-3
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Boys 17 & Under Singles Final: Jamie Kelly (Galway) dft Niall Allison (Carrickmore, Tyrone) 17-10
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Girls 17 & Under Singles Final: Niamh Coleman (Armagh) dft Eilise McCrory (Breacach, Tyrone) 24-11