ON Saturday, June 10, Crinkle Handball Club won the 60x30 Junior B Inter-club All Ireland Championship in Clonmel, bridging a 27 year gap since Crinkle last won a Junior Club All Ireland title.
Six teams in total contested the championship with Crinkle being drawn in Group A along with Curraghboy of Roscommon and Lahorna of Tipperary. Group B consisted of Kells of Kilkenny, Dungarvan of Waterford and Mallow of Cork.
The format for the championship changed this year with the competition being run off in one day. The matches consisted of two sets of doubles played on a time basis with aggregate aces determining the winner.
The opening game in Group A saw Curraghboy take on Lahorna which Curraghboy won on a scoreline of 52-40 and 52-36 (aggregate 104-76). Crinkle then played Curraghboy and won 40-32 and 52-42 leaving the Roscommon team on a total of 178 points, Crinkle on 92 and Lahorna on 76 points.
This required Crinkle to defeat Lahorna by a margin of 87 points in order to reach the final, a tough task by any standard. The Offaly lads were not to be fazed and their first doubles won very convincingly on a score line of 75-29. This left them well poised for victory as they only required a further 12 marks to reach the final. Their second pairing also proved too strong for the Tipperary team and they ran out convincing winners with a score of 50 points to 26. With an impressive aggregate score of 217 points Crinkle booked a place in the final Crinkle against Kells of Kilkenny.
The first game in the final pitted Noel O’Brien and Kevin Cooke against Anthony Martin and Dan Breen in which Crinkle made a good start and led the game by 7 points to 3 in the opening five minutes. Before long, however, Kilkenny found their feet and went on to lead the game 17-11. Realising that defeat was on the cards if they didn’t change their game plan, the Crinkle lads altered their tactics and O’Brien started to meet the ball on serve which was very effective in bringing the opposition to the back of the court allowing Cooke to kill the ball. This style of play was working well for Crinkle and they were soon in the lead again, 27-24. Throughout the remainder of the game Offaly held onto this lead and won it on a score line of 44-39.
The second pairing for Crinkle was Sean Ryan and John Mullins and they were in opposition to Brendan and Diarmuid Burke. With a mere 5 point advantage to Crinkle going into this game, Ryan and Mullins were still under pressure to perform well if victory was to be achieved. Kells settled in very quickly and started to control the game forging out a lead of 14 points to 6.
In true Offaly style the lads responded to the challenge and Ryan started to command the alley from the left hand side. This drew the opposition to the back of the court allowing Mullins to dictate the pace of the game from the short line. Crinkle began to close the lead that Kells had built up but the Kilkenny pair managed to retain a 2 point cushion between them for the majority of the game. Heading into the last eight minutes, Kells had again pushed ahead by 6 points, 27-21.
The Crinkle pair dug deep and began to claw back the lead once more. Mullins got a good lob serve going which forced a poor return from the opposition and set Ryan up for the fly kill. This worked very well for the Crinkle duo and the found themselves level pegging at 30 points each. Kells were determined not to go down without a fight and with just two minutes remaining they regained serve and made three aces.
The decisive moment of the match was when a long rally was won by a heroic effort from Mullins, who dived, full length for a ball and killed it to win back serve. Crinkle racked up four more marks to win the game 34-33 which gave them outright victory with an aggregate score of 78-72.
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