The highly sought after All-Ireland Open Club title returned to the West of Ireland last weekend as expected with Mayo’s Ballaghaderreen taking down former winners, Antrim’s Gort Na Mona in emphatic style.
Gort Na Mona’s combination of Ricky McCann, Paddy Crothers, John McGarry, Eddie Mallon and Paul Graham had shown good promise in their dismissal of Leinster champions, Coolboy of Wicklow in the semi-final but suffered heavily to the hands of the champions by a 43 point margin in the decider.
Ballaghaderreen’s blend of experience and youth (Dessie Keegan, Joe McCann, Vinnie Moran, Paul Flynn and Stephen Cooney) helped guide the Mayo men to a staggering fifteenth crown in Kingscourt. The newest member of this well balanced and thriving club side, Cooney, was thrilled with the victory.
“I think this has to be one of the greatest achievements in our club to date and it is a testament to the late John Gaffney’s hard work in our club. We would not be here without him,” said Cooney.
“Our team actually played very well on the day and that never has been a problem through the years as every player on the team is ready to give everything to win. We pick our teams on how our players feel and nobody is safe on the team which is great because nobody takes their position for granted and has to work hard for their place.”
It was recently crowned Golden Gloves champion, Joe McCann who set the Westerners on their way and that helped shape the final destination of the 2011 Open 40×20 club gong.
“Joe (Mc Cann) was the inform player and had a tremendous first game against Ricky (McCann), which proved to be our platform for the rest of the games. We were also fortunate that we were fresher than the other team in the final as we did not have a semi-final.”
A rejuvenated Cooney after a summer break has enjoyed fine progress in 2011 with particular reference to a semi-final appearance in the opening senior ranking event of the 40×20 season in Belfast in October.
“Our aim is to take each tournament at a time and hopefully be able to do well in the next 60×30 club championship. I felt my year in 2011 went well. I took a much needed break in the summer as I felt my motivation slipping as I was fatigued from playing so many competitions. It has made me smarter in training and is keeping me fresh for games.”
“I would like to thank all the lads for all their efforts put into the open championship and congratulate Paul and Nicola Flynn on their new baby girl Holly, our newest member of the Ballaghaderreen handball club.”
RESULT: 2011 OPEN CLUB 40×20 CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL: Ballaghaderreen, Mayo (Dessie Keegan, Joe McCann, Vinnie Moran, Paul Flynn & Stephen Cooney) dft Gort an Mona 81-38.
Tipperary club team, Ballina took another huge step forward last weekend in their quest for senior club glory when they captured the All-Ireland Intermediate 40×20 Club title at the expense of Leinster winners, Coolboy.
The Munster champions had signalled their pedigree when they ousted Connaught victors, Williamstown in the last four and they carried that momentum into the showdown match to defeat Coolboy by 45 points, 104 to 59.
Ballina has made great strides forward as a club both on and off the court since 2000 and have made the jump from junior to senior in just a matter of a few seasons. They scooped the club of the year accolade a decade ago and they haven’t looked back ever since with many of their players, namely Fergal Collins and Ger Coonan bagging many Nationals titles across the board.
“It’s brilliant for the club. A few years back we won the junior club championship and now winning the intermediate shows we have brought the club to another level so we’re all delighted with the win and hopefully we can keep going in the same direction,” said former 19 and under USA winner, Collins.
“We won the junior big alley club in 2003 and back in 2001 Ballina won the club of the year and we have won 2 Munster senior club titles. There’s great work going on at underage level and hopefully we can get back to that level and go past it in the near future.”
Collins helped fashion an advantage in the final after the opening singles match while the doubles pairing of Mike Carroll and Martin McInerney continued to keep the Tipperary side on top going into the remaining singles fixture. Then former All-Ireland under 21 champion, Ger Coonan produced an impressive performance to help seal the intermediate club title and secure senior status for 2012.
“I think we all played to our potential at the weekend. I went in first and was lucky enough to have us ahead going into the doubles. Then Mike Carroll and Martin Mc Inerney went in and they are a strong doubles team. They were always going to hold their own and they were playing really well together and were well in control in both their matches so they gave us a strong lead. Then it was left to Ger Coonan to finish the job and he was more than capable of making whatever amount of points we needed him to get and he played excellent handball to finish it for us.”
Collins who captured the Mens A singles at the 2009 US Nationals and qualified for a Pro Stop in 2010 in Minnesota in the elite grade will now be hoping that his club can challenge for the senior club series next year.
“Going forward, we hope to win more titles at juvenile level bringing more talent through and hopefully we can challenge the top clubs in the country for the senior title.”
After reflecting on the past twelve months, Collins is now ready to contest for silverware at the World Championships, scheduled for Dublin next October.
“I was happy with my year. I had some results go the wrong way and a few nice wins also so I’m looking forward to 2012 which looks like its going to be a big year for handball here in Ireland with the world championships.”
“I’ll be hoping to compete well in all the different competitions leading up to the worlds and hopefully there will be a 23 and under division and I’ll hope to do my best in that.”
RESULT: 2011 INTERMEDIATE CLUB CHAMPIONSHIPS:
SF1: Ulster v Leinster:
Coolboy, Wicklow (Jerome Willoughby, Michael Lennon, Pat Quaile, Keith Kavanagh) dft
St. Patrick’s, Cavan (Paul Fitzpatrick, Padraig Cahill, Eddie Halligan, Patrick Clerkin & James Brady) SF2: Munster v Connacht: Ballina, Tipperary (Fergal Collins, Mike Carroll Martin McInerney, Ger Coonan) dft Williamstown, Galway (Ollie Conway, Pat Conway, Declan Connaughton, Noel McHugh). FINAL: Ballina dft Coolboy 104 – 59