TOP CLASS Liam Moffatt, Mayo GAA Board chairman, and Dessie Keegan, President of the Irish Handball Association, are pictured after the Irish 4-Wall Handball National Ladies Open Final with Martina McMahon (winner) and Aisling Reilly (runner-up).
THIRTY years ago Aughagower Handball Club was merely an alley without a back wall, and as far away from hosting a national competition as you could imagine. The club was a long way from the state-of-the-art facilities you find in the West Mayo village today.
But last Sunday Aughagower Handball Club, in the shadow of Croagh Patrick, showed how far they had come by hosting the Irish 4-Wall National Championships as some of the best players in the world were battling it out for the top prize.
For the Aughagower club’s board — Gus Heraty (Chairman), Seosámh Ó Maolchróin (President), Liam Masterson (Secretary) and Michael Heraty — it will no doubt go down as one of the club’s greatest ever days, and one born from a lot of hard work and determination over the past three decades.
Last Saturday afternoon, as ‘Storm Dennis’ wrecked havoc on sporting events across the country, the gallery at the impressive new handball court in Aughagower was packed to the rafters to see 14 of the world’s best players strut their stuff.
Ten other venues in Mayo were also hosting respective events for the Nationals, including Newport, Carnacon, Kiltimagh, Claremorris, Bofield, Ballaghaderreen, Ballinrobe and Castlebar, as handball fever swept across the county.
The Aughagower club, which has less than 20 adult members and 40 juveniles, have hosted one of the marquee ladies-only events on the handball calendar for the past six years, but having players of the calibre that were there last Saturday will be a massive benefit to the future stars of the area.
Huge work has gone into making the venue what it is today — considered one of the top facilities in Connacht.
The fact that Cavan’s Paul Brady – considered one of the best players to ever play the game – was in attendance to fight for the title speaks volumes for the event. Brady was playing in his first singles match in Ireland since winning a record tenth All-Ireland Singles title in 2013, and was looking to test his skills against the other big hitters.
Those included reigning All-Ireland champion Robbie McCarthy, 2018 All-Ireland winner Martin Mulkerrins and current number two in Ireland, Diarmuid Nash.
Newport man Ian McLoughlin was amongst the field too, but lost his enthralling contest to Ger Coonan of Tipperary, whilst Ballaghaderreen native Vinny Moran was also part of the field.
Robbie McCarthy met Brady in the semi-final, but the latter was forced to withdraw due to injury, sending the reigning All-Ireland champion into the final against Mulkerrins.
The Open final had the potential to be a classic and likely to be a warm up for the All-Ireland Championships next week. However, McCarthy was too strong and claimed a record fourth National 4-Wall title.
In the Ladies Open, world double champions Martina McMahon and Aisling Reilly faced off against each other, with McMahon having the edge this time.
All-in-all, the weekend was a massive success for Aughagower Handball Club, and one that will live long in the memory of its members.
Robbie McCarthy (Westmeath) defeated Martin Mulkerrins (Galway) 15-8, 15-8.
Martina McMahon (Limerick) defeated Aisling Reilly (Antrim) 15-9, 15-11.
Ryan Mullan (Tyrone) defeated Ciarán Malone (Clare) 6-15, 15-9, 11-4.
Ellen O’Connor (Kildare) defeated Katie Barrett (Carlow 15-10, 15-8.
Ciarán Brennan (Monaghan) defeated Eimhin O’Diolluin (Galway) 15-4, 15-6.
David Daveron (Galway) defeated David Stanners (Wexford) 14-15, 15-4, 11-5.
Paul Hedderman (Limerick) defeated Paul Graham (Antrim) 8-15, 15-9, 11-10.
Silver Masters B.
Paul Walsh (Cork) defeated Phillip O’Carroll (Cork) 15-10, 15-5.
Tom Sheridan (Meath) defeated Tomas Donegan (Limerick) 15-6, 15-6.
Martin McEntee (Monaghan) defeated Jimmy Reilly (Meath) 15-2, 5-15, 11-7.