University College Dublin has a long and rich tradition of handball, with significant success in both national and international 3rd Level tournaments over the past half-century.
Handball is currently thriving in the University with two newly constructed One-Wall Handball Courts, combined with the recent success in the All-Ireland Intervarsity Team Championships where the men’s team claimed the title and firmly established themselves as the top University team in Ireland. Two pivotal members of the team are Galway’s young protégé Martin Mulkerrins, and Clare’s Diarmuid Nash. The two players, who have achieved major success both in Ireland and further afield in America throughout a glittering juvenile career, are exciting prospects and are widely regarded among handballing circles as future stars of the game. Mulkerrins and Nash are newcomers to the university this year and highlight the attraction UCD’s sport facilities brings to the youth of today.
Mulkerrins acknowledges this stating, ‘The UCD Sports Academy have been really helpful and forward thinking with the new court developments. Handball is undergoing a real boom at the minute and with the 2012 World Handball Championships being hosted by Ireland next October, the University has shown how progressive they are, and it really is great for the game that Dublin now has a top class facility which I am sure will draw Ireland’s top players to come for training purposes in the build up to next October.’
UCD Sports Centre Manager Paula Cashman told how ‘it only seemed logical to erect these new courts as they are such an excellent use of space, taking up very little floor space and don’t affect the playing areas of other sports. But as well as that, primary and secondary schools all over Ireland are putting up courts, with over 125 schools in the past two years alone developing new facilities, so we at UCD want to provide the opportunity for our future students to play handball at 3rd Level.’
To officially open the new courts, members of the Dublin Hurling squad were on hand to play a hugely entertaining tournament. Members of the current National Hurling League winning panel have been participating in weekly handball sessions to stay in top physical condition during the winter months, with regular attendees including Ryan O’ Dwyer, Daithi O’Callaghan, Johnny McCaffery, Niall Corcoran, Shane Ryan, Cian McBride and Daire Plunkett. The players have been utilising the facilities of GAA clubs in St Marks, St Brigid’s and Tomas Davis, and have all shown real progression and a great enthusiasm for the game with the help of Enda Timoney who has been on hand to provide coaching tips to the players.
Shane Ryan, who is a primary school teacher, displayed his new found appreciation for handball stating, ‘It’s a really addictive game that provides a great workout without you even realising, owing to the fun you are having. I have already arranged that my school will be taking part in the GAA Handball One-Wall Schools Initiative that will be starting in January as I think the children will love it.’
The tournament itself quickly became very competitive when the players realised they were being videoed for a television feature being released in January 2012. In the Double’s Final, Shane Ryan joined forces with UCD student Sam Temple to defeat Ryan O’Dwyer and Cian McBride on a 15-10 score-line with, as expected, exceptional athleticism shown by all involved. In the Single’s Final, Daithi O’Callaghan defeated Johnny McCaffery in a closer encounter, prevailing 15-13 after an array of late ‘kill shots’ sealed the win. The winning players were provided with the new promotional 2012 World Championship handball jerseys.
GAA Handball National Development Officer Darragh Daly reported, ‘It is great that the players have taken to it so strongly. They all now realise the benefits handball can bring to their own sport which include improving hand-eye co-ordination, speed, agility, and importantly developing both sides of the body. The majority of the players are Games Promotion Officers and teachers in the Dublin area and are all eager to introduce handball to their respective clubs and schools which is great for the future of the sport. Credit must also go to UCD for allowing this venture to take off, as they were only too willing to help in the development of handball. It is really encouraging for our game that one of Ireland’s top Universitys has come on board and acknowledged the massive potential the sport has.’
An exciting year lies ahead for GAA Handball with 2000 competitors from over 33 countries attending the World Handball Championships being held in the Citywest Hotel Dublin next October. A major promotional drive in schools and clubs in Dublin and throughout Ireland will be undertaken in the build up to the event with coaching sessions and resources being provided to any school/ club who wishes to take part.
Any school or club interested in becoming a part of this new One Wall Handball initiative and bringing handball to their area, can receive further information from GAA Handball Ireland, Croke Park or email: Darragh Daly (National Development Officer) at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The TV feature of this latest event (plus a host of others) can be seen on The GAA Handball Show on 23rd January 2012.