Laois Handball Success
Laois success in Leinster Championships
The Leinster 40×20 Handball Championship season came to completion last week with a number of Laois handballers challenging for provincial honours.
Niamh Dunne began the year as strong favourite to capture the Ladies Junior B title and she delivered in style with an impressive victory over Ashling Maher of Kilkenny in the final. The first game proved to be a close battle with never more than a couple of aces separating the two players. Thankfully Niamh was to show all her experience and skill to finish the game the stronger, winning on a score line of 21-16. The second game was dominated by Niamh and she powered her way to the Leinster title with a resounding 21-16 21-3 success. This was a fantastic victory for the Laois girl and she must now be considered a strong contender for All-Ireland glory in the coming weeks.
In the Men’s Junior B championships, Laois were to complete a clean sweep of the titles on offer thanks to the exploits of Michael Donovan and Pauric Buggy. In the Men’s Junior B singles final, Michael faced Diarmuid Burke of Kilkenny in what was expected to be a closely fought encounter. The opening game ebbed and flowed with both players enjoying period of dominance. Nerves were evident on the part of both players but crucially it was Michael who displayed the greater composure when it mattered the most to take the first game 21-17. The second game proved to be a more one-sided affair with Michael showcasing the talent he possesses with a number of high quality kill-shots off both his left and right hand. Diarmuid, clearly deflated from losing the opening game was unable to respond and the title went to the Laois man on a 21-17 21-11 score line. Michael now progresses to an All-Ireland semi-final against Conor Flynn of Antrim next Saturday in Monavea.
Michael was celebrating further provincial success when he partnered Pauric Buggy in the Men’s Junior B doubles final against Anthony Martin and Diarmuid Burke of Kilkenny. Having recorded a number of highly impressive victories in the previous rounds, the two Laois players were considered by many as favourites to lift this title and they were not to disappoint the travelling Laois support.
The opening game was dominated by Michael and Pauric who dictated proceedings thanks to an array of impressive kill-shots from all areas of the court. They easily captured the first game on a score line of 21-10 and seemed destined for provincial glory. The second game was not to go according to script for the Laois pairing who struggled to cope with the Kilkenny onslaught. Martin and Burke were now playing with a much greater determination and deservingly took the second game 9-21. In the tie-breaker, it was the Kilkenny handballers who made the brighter start building up a 10-4 lead. Thankfully, the Laois pairing responded and quickly eroded the deficit thanks largely to the precise serving of Pauric Buggy. The momentum was now firmly with Laois and they seized their opportunity in style to win the title after an absorbing encounter 21-10 9-21 21-14.
Laois were represented in two further finals with Joe Brennan facing Mick Armstrong of Wexford in the Men’s Golden Masters B Final while Paddy Donovan found himself up against Padraig Maguire of Kildare in the Golden Masters A Final.
Having narrowly missed out on Leinster success twelve months previous, Joe Brennan was optimistic that that he could go one step further this year. After an epic 21-17 21-20 semi-final against Anthony Mulligan of Westmeath hopes were high that Joe could challenge a strong opponent in Mick Armstrong. The final proved to a tight affair but it was the Wexford handballer who won the crucial rallies and took his opportunities to kill the ball when the chances presented themselves. In the end, Joe lost out in two straight games 21-14 21-7.
In the Golden Masters A Final, there was greater joy for Laois when Paddy Donovan showed all his experience and skill to defeat Padraig Maguire. Paddy controlled the centre of the alley throughout and his ability to kill the ball also proved telling. The Laois player was unrelenting in the first game and never allowed his opponent to settle or establish any foothold, easily winning out 21-7. The second game was to follow a similar pattern and Paddy impressively took the title 21-7 21-11 with two low hard spinning serves that Maguire was unable to return. In winning the Leinster Golden Masters Title he now faces the daunting prospect of travelling to Belfast to face Donal Armstrong of Antrim in the All-Ireland semi-final.