HISTORY was made in Bawn, Co Monaghan on Saturday, April 21 when Crinkle’s Christina Donoghue won the first ever Ladies Handball Title for Offaly.
Christina who took up the game less than two years ago got her first taste of success when she defeated Collette Connaughton of Galway in the Ladies 40x20 Challenger. With the qualifying rounds held the week previous the county had three ladies in the semi finals.
Fellow club player Theresa Ryan was drawn against Connaughton in the first of the semi finals. Ryan was slow to start giving the Galway lass a comfortable lead of 9 points. After settling in she levelled the game at 14 points each. Ryan fought hard throughout the remainder of the game but it wasn’t to be as Connaughton finished it on a score line of 21-14.
The second game got underway and before long Ryan was leading 7-4. With the tribe’s woman regaining serve she played some outstanding handball and took the lead with a 17-7 advantage. With such a cushion and more experience at competition level Connaughton was clinical in the placement of the ball and she won the game and match on a score line of 21-10.
The second semi final was an all Offaly affair. These players have battled it out in the past with very little separating them. Dempsey was the first to start making scores and she lead by 7 points to 0. Donoghue broke Dempsey’s serve and started to narrow the gap but Dempsey made another burst and she lead the game 14-6. Her lead didn’t last too long as Donoghue dug deep and went on to win the game 21-14. In the second game Donoghue got off to a flying start with a 12 - 2 advantage. Both players gave it their all with some great rallies and passing shots but it was the powerful serve which gave Donoghue the edge over Dempsey. With a place in the final at stake, Dempsey broke Donoghue’s serve five times when serving for match point but for Dempsey it was a mountain to climb and Donoghue won the game 21-3.
In the final Donoghue was in devastating form and her incredible power serve had the tribe’s woman in trouble from an early stage as she opened up a 14-2 lead. She produced 7 unanswered points to win the first game 21-2. However Connaughton didn’t let Donoghue have it all her own way in the opening stages of the second game, she fought for every ball and kept the pressure on with a 4-0 lead. Power, was the only advantage Donoghue had on the opposition and that, she had plenty of. Serving the ball with lots of pace and on the return she would meet the ball on the fly and kill it. This was very effective and it put her well in the lead at 16-4. Connaughton could only make a further 2 marks before the faithful lass won the game, match and title, a first for her and county.
In the men’s competition we had three participants with Alan Guinan, Darren Madden and Michéal O’Brien all hoping to take titles in their respective grades.
In his opening round Alan Guinan was in hard luck not to have got over the first hurdle when he was defeated in the third game by Galway’s Damien Finnegan, 21-14, 4-21, 11-8.
In the men’s challenger quarter final Darren Madden was paired against Tipperary’s Kevin Timmons. Madden was unable to make any headway in the game as Timmons experience stood to him and he won out the match comfortably on a score line of 21-14,21-11.
On Friday night week last Michéal O’Brien met old rival Kevin Craddock of Galway in his opening round. The last time that these players met was in last years all Ireland 60x30 final where O’Brien came away with a softball doubles title partnering David Hope.
O’Brien was never under any pressure during his match and won it on a score line of 21-18, 21-11. On the Saturday in Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan, O’Brien played Daniel Fenlon of Carlow in the quarter final of the men’s B. Fenlon was in top form and he won the first game 21-18. The Offaly man had it all to do in the second game to book a place in the semi final. O’Brien led for most of the game but Fenlon started to find his feet and levelled the game. O’Brien pulled out all the stops to defeat the Carlow man 21-17.
In the tie breaker O’Brien held all the aces with precision serving and killshots and he came away with the third game 11-4. He knew going into this semi final he would have it all to do as his opposition, Monahan’s Terry Kieran, had only won an all Ireland Junior title two weeks earlier and was on home soil. In the opening minutes Michéal was evidently not showing the same sharpness he had displayed in previous rounds. He tried his best and never gave up but it wasn’t to be and he lost the match 21-11, 21-12.
Another one of our top performers was David Hope who played Cavan’s Patrick Clerkin in the men’s A quarter final. Hope took an early lead 7-3 after settling in well. Clerkin didn’t let Hope have it all his own way and started to claw back the Fahy club mans lead. Hope stayed calm and put away the ball when the chance arose and he won the first game 21-11.
The second game mirrored the previous one with Hope still dominating the match and he went on to win it on a score line of 21-11. The Irish Nationals proved to be as competitive as ever and further emphasised the high levels of talent within the country. Hope faced Jerome Willoughby of Wicklow with what was probably the match of the day with brilliant pass and killshots from both players and hugely entertaining rallies which provided some incredible retrieval’s. In the end despite trailing 14-12 in the first game, Willoughby won it on a score line of 21-18.
Another highly entertaining game was witnessed during the second leg with all the attributes of the first; with point for point play it was evident that both players were giving it their all. Willoughby widened the gap with a 3 point advantage leaving the score at 18-15. Hope kept battling hard but could not close that 3 point margin to take control of the game and in the end that was all that would separate them when the garden county man finished it on a score line of 21-18.
Well done to all our players who took part and congratulations to Christina on winning her first ever title for club and county.
Congratulations to our juvenile players who represented Offaly in the Leinster C Juvenile Championship in Delvin Co. Westmeath
The results on the day were;
U-15s singles Niall Mitchell (Westmeath) defeated Jordan Hart (Offaly) 15-0, 15-8. Jordan was unfortunate not to come back in the second game as he played some great shots.
U-14s singles Mark Mc McCullough (Louth) defeated Aaron Blake (Offaly) 15-5, 12-15 going in to the 3rd game Aaron played some fantastic handball but unfortunately Louth opposition was tough and took the game 11-7.
U-12s singles Finn Dempsey (Offaly) defeated Sam Faulkner (Louth) 15-0, 15-14 with a nail biting finish to the second game fortunately going in Offaly’s favour.