Laois Handball Roundup
On Bank Holiday Monday the Laois GAA Handball One-Wall Championships were played in the newly established courts in Ballacolla. The prize for the overall winner on the day was the Mick Dunne Cup named after the former RTÉ sports presenter. This Cup commemorates the memory of a great Laois GAA man who was RTÉ’S first Gaelic games correspondent and someone who pioneered television coverage in the 1970s of GAA sports including handball.
The championships were divided into three divisions with players graded according to their ability. With the recent growth of one-wall handball in the county these championships also gave many new players to the game of handball the opportunity to partake in their first competitive handball tournament.
Division Three proved to be a very competitive affair with Seán Kelly of Monavea and Seán Dunphy of Cullohill qualifying for the final. The Monavea player went into the final as slight favourite after an impressive 31-13 victory over Ballacolla’s George Boyhan in his semi-final. In the final, Seán Kelly lived up to his billing as favourite and produced a very commanding performance to take the title on a 15-7 15-7 scoreline. Seán Dunphy battled bravely throughout the encounter but in the end it was the experience of the Monavea player that proved the difference between the two players. In the plate final, George Boyhan took the honours beating his Ballacolla clubmate Nigel Boyhan in a close game 25-17.
The Division Two Final brought together two evenly matched players in Ballacolla’s Kevin Brennan and Cullohill’s Eddie Dunne. Eddie had recorded impressive victories over James Doyle and Seamus Brennan in the earlier rounds while Kevin had proved too strong for Niamh Dunne and Jack McEvoy. The first game was to go true to form with never more than a few aces separating the two players. With the game in the balance it was Kevin who won the crucial aces and took the first game 15-9. The second game was to see Kevin raise his game and Eddie eventually had to concede defeat to his opponent on a scoreline of 15-6. On the evidence of this performance, Kevin will cause a number of players trouble in Division One of next year’s competition. In the plate final, Niamh Dunne recorded a very impressive 31-12 victory over Mick Fogarty.
The Division One Final was to be a father and son affair after Mick Donovan had defeated Peter Whelan in his semi-final and Paddy Donovan edged a tight encounter with Andrew Dowling. Both players showed a high level of skill and court-craft keeping the large attendance at the final thoroughly entertained. Paddy was to show his greater experience in the first game by keeping Michael to the back of the court and picking off chances when they presented themselves. In taking the first game 15-9 it looked as though Paddy was on course for his first county one-wall title.
Michael however was unfazed by his father’s good start and came storming back with some fantastic handball in the second game. Paddy was unable to respond to Michael’s speed and power, losing the second game 15-6 and sending the final to a third game decider. The tie-breaker was unfortunately to be a one-sided affair with Paddy Donovan unable to match his younger opponent’s greater energy and enthusiasm. Sensing that he now had the upper-hand, Michael pressed home his advantage and captured the Laois One-Wall County Championship and Mick Dunne Cup on a scoreline of 9-15 15-6 11-0. In the plate final, Ray Fogarty defeated John Duggan 21-11.
Laois GAA Handball would like to thank Eileen and Lilly Dunne who were in attendance at the finals and presented the Mick Dunne Cup to county one-wall champion Michael Donovan. We were truly honoured that they could attend these finals and lend their support to the development of the game within the county.
Report by Peter Whelan, Laois GAA Handball PRO