Looking back at Laois Handball in 2014

Looking back at Laois Handball in 2014

Looking back at Laois Handball in 2014
The inaugural Leinster Adult One-Wall Championships were played over the June Bank Holiday weekend with Cullohill and Ballacolla playing host to action. Ten counties were represented at these championships with Laois having seven players in competition and all with realistic ambitions of taking home provincial honours.

Ciara Dowling & Niamh Dunne winners of the Ladies Plate final at 60x30 Irish Nationals.

Ciara Dowling & Niamh Dunne winners of the Ladies Plate final at 60×30 Irish Nationals.

Laois’ best hope of a provincial success rested on the shoulders of Niamh Dunne in the Ladies One-Wall. Standing in her way were some experienced performers such as Marie Walsh of Kilkenny, Christine O’Donoghue of Offaly and Eileen O’Connor of Kildare. Despite the quality of her opponents, Niamh topped her group in a convincing manner to set up an eagerly anticipated final with One-Wall specialist Audrey McCormack of Dublin. In the final, Niamh displayed all the attributes that have made her a force in Ladies handball with some incredible retrievals, excellent kill-shots and powerful returns of serve. McCormack fought bravely and never allowed the Laois girl to build up a too sizeable a lead, but her efforts were in vain as Niamh Dunne captured the Ladies Leinster One-Wall title on a score line of 21-12.

St. Brigids Monavea Handball Club forging ahead Leinsters.

St. Brigids Monavea Handball Club forging ahead in Leinster.

Laois were soon celebrating a second Leinster title when Paddy Donovan prevailed in the Men’s Masters. The destination of this title was hard to predict with strong One-Wall players such as Frank Semple of Dublin and David King of Carlow in the mix. Paddy showed all his experience and qualities to progress to the final undefeated where he faced John Roche of Wexford. In the decider, Paddy always held the upper hand. His extensive knowledge of the game of One-Wall handball was very evident throughout and he controlled the court superbly to win the Men’s Masters title with a couple of aces to spare on his opponent.

Unfortunately, Michael Donovan was unable to replicate his father’s success in the Men’s Junior B section. Having captured the Laois One-Wall title three weeks previous, Michael went into this tournament as a strong favourite to add further silverware to his collection. Michael seemed on course to achieve this when he topped his group and then gave a dominant display in his semi-final to set up a provincial decider with Eoin Cleary of Dublin. In the final, Michael made a number of uncharacteristic errors that allowed his opponent build up a 19-10 lead. Sensing that the title was slipping from his grasp he staged a remarkable fight back but agonizingly fell just short, losing out 21-19.

Niamh Dunne Handballer photo

The victor and the vanquished.

Laois were given another opportunity of provincial success when Peter Whelan topped his group that comprised of Johnny Westlake of Wexford and Colm Devine of Louth to qualify for the Men’s Junior Final. The final however proved a step too far for the Laois handballer, as he was easily defeated by the talented Daniel Fenlon of Carlow on a score line of 32-9. There was further disappointment for Laois in the Men’s Masters B final where Eddie Dunne lost out to the experienced campaigner Jimmy Purcell of Kilkenny. Despite this loss, Eddie has been in impressive form this year and it would appear to be only a matter of time before he captures that elusive provincial title.