2019 Year in Review
As we reach the end of 2019 we can look back on what was another phenomenal year in GAA Handball on the courts. Below is a review of what was a mammoth 12 months in GAA Handball, with a short video highlighting some of our major Finals which we broadcast live for the Handball community worldwide to view free of charge.
The first competition of the year saw Clare's Diarmaid Nash strike first blood as he defeated Westmeath's Robbie McCarthy in the 10th John Gaffney Memorial Tournament as the Clare man set out his intentions for the year ahead.
The 2019 She's Ace Festival Weekend was certainly one to remember with a total of 162 females headed west to smash our entry records, aged from 9 through to 40+. The showpiece final was of course the Ladies Open and brought another cracking contest between the best two players in the world in Catriona Casey (Cork) & Martina McMahon (Limerick). Reigning All-Ireland & World champion McMahon entered as favourite but it was Casey who stormed into an early and dominated the opening exchanges with some aggressive play. A few surges from McMahon somewhere from nowhere saw her serve at game ball 14-12, but Casey refused to give in edged the first 15-14. That appeared to give her the confidence to push on, and that is what she done, winning the second 15-7 to win her 5th She's Ace Title in the 6th edition of the event.
The 29th Annual Gael Linn competition took place in Ballydesmond HC, Cork with Clogh’s (Kilkenny) Katie Brennan and Bobby Brennan coming out top of the pile following a 50-26 final victory against Cork’s Carmel Kelliher and Tomas O’Connor representing the Boherbue club. In the Solas section, Una Ni Dhugain and Niall Ó Draighneain of Galmoy overcame Annaghdown Ava Sweeney and Daniel Kavanagh.
The new National Handball Academy was also launched in January and would go on to be a huge success.
February saw the Annual All Stars take place with over 200 attending a gala event in Dunboyne Castle as the achievements of 2018 were celebrated. It was a fantastic night with entertainment provided by Inis Mor Handballer Jason O Toole. On the night the major awards went to Moycullen HC (Venue of the Year), Inis Mor HC (Club of the Year) while Limerick's Martina McMahon was crowned Ladies Player of the Year with Martin Mulkerrins taking home Male Player of the Year. The young player of the year awards went to Kildare's Leah Doyle and Monaghan's Eoghan McGinnity. The following morning saw Annual Congress take place which saw Mayo's Dessie Keegan win the race to become the next President of GAA Handball.
The 4 Wall Adult Nationals took place in Mayo/Galway venues and were a roaring success. In a magnificent new facility at Claregalway HC, a full house was witness to some thrilling Handball between our country's finest. For the second ranking event in a row we saw a final between Nash & McCarthy. Last time round Nash was a dominant two game winner. This time however McCarthy gained his revenge in another tiebreak epic 11-9 as both players produced some astonishing handball. In the Ladies section, the top two seeds advanced as expected by many. Catriona Casey was in cruise control in the opening game as she held a 13-6 lead. But from nowhere Martina McMahon out on a sensational display of serving and killing to win the first 15-13, and carry that momentum into the second winning 15-6. That was Martina's first Irish 4-Wall Nationals title.
The 4 Wall Colleges took place in Bawn, Corduff and Kells with the main titles going to Kilkenny’s Jack Holden representing Greenan College, Thomastown when he captured the Boys Senior Singles title while Kildare’s Mollie Dagg, Colaiste Chiarain, Leixlip took home the Girls Senior Singles title.
Also in February the ICHA 4Wall event took place.
The 4Wall All Ireland championship also kicked off towards the end of February.
Once again the Finals Festival weekend proved to be an outstanding success as players from all over Ireland travelled to Kingscourt to compete in finals across the weekend.
Cork's Catriona Casey won back her O'Neill's All-Ireland Four-Wall Senior Singles title after coming through another extraordinary final against her great rival, Martina McMahon of Limerick. McMahon had defeated Casey in two 21-20 third-game thrillers in the last two All-Ireland finals in both courts but the Ballydesmond woman came roaring back to reclaim the crown here on a 12-21, 21-12, 21-19 scoreline. McMahon was sensational in game one but Casey refused to wilt and, with pinpoint kills and some awesome retrieving, eventually began to take charge to force a decider.
Meanwhile, in the men's decider, Westmeath's Robbie McCarthy won his fourth O'Neill's Senior Singles crown with a straight games win over Clare's Diarmaid Nash (21-17, 21-15). In general play, there was little between the experienced duo but the Mullingar right-hander edged the battle in the front court, where his uncanny deadweight paddle kills to either corner managed to negate the Banner man's attacking game.
Eoghan McGinnity brought the Minor Singles cup to Monaghan for the first time with a 21-10, 14-21, 21-13 win over Clare hurler Mark Rodgers in a cagey, cat and mouse final which saw an intriguing clash of styles while Kildare's Leah Doyle retained her Ladies Minor title against Galway camóg Niamh Heffernan (21-8, 21-16).
Sunday saw the Juveniles take centre stage with many cracking encounters taking place throughout the day.
Action commenced in the O'Neills 4 Wall Doubles Championships.
The ICHA Wallball event took place.
Yet again the National Cumann na mBunscoil Handball Day proved to be a superb day, with 48 young stars of the future travelling to Kingscourt HC in Cavan to represent their Province with pride.
The action returned to Kingscourt for another hugely successful weekend in the O’Neills All-Ireland 4-Wall Doubles Finals in Kingscourt, there was joy for the reigning champions Cork & Clare in the Ladies & Men’s Senior Finals respectively.
Catriona Casey & Aishling O’Keeffe justified their favourites tag as the now 5 time champions defeated Roscommon sisters Fiona & Siobhan Tully in two games. In the Men’s Final Clare’s Diarmaid Nash and Colin Crehan defeated the sibling pairing of Martin & Diarmuid Mulkerrins to win the Senior 4-Wall Doubles title 21-17, 21-12.
In the Girls Minor Final, Kildare’s Leah Doyle & Abby Tarrant took the honours after a tough battle with Mayo’s Claire Reynolds & Cuilleann Bourke, winning 21-18, 21-8. That win sealed a Minor Slam for Doyle for the second successive year.
The Boys Minor Final was a marathon, as Monaghan’s Eoghan McGinnity & Konrad Kowal defeated Kilkenny’s Jack Holden & Jack Doyle 9-21, 21-16, 21-17. The win sealed the Minor Slam for McGinnity, and notably saw Konrad become the first Polish native to win an All-Ireland title.
The 2019 40x20 Juvenile Boys Team of 6/4 competitions took place in Kilkenny and Wexford venues. In the U12/13 competition Kilkenny overcame Tyrone on a scoreline of 90-22. In the U14/15 competition Clare captured won the title when they overcame Galway 80-41. In the U16/17 competition Cork just edged their Galway opponents on a score-line 49-39.
Meanwhile Munster have won the Shes Ace Girls Interprovincial Team of Ten on aggregate scores after an exciting day play in Kingscourt.
The curtain came down on the 2019 4-Wall season in some style with the top Juvenile players in the country producing an exhibition of Handball in venues in Tyrone, Monaghan and Armagh. The weekend was one of the outstanding weekends of the year.
The 13 & under girls saw Wexford’s Jodie Keeling defeat Tipperary’s Hannah Grace on a 15-9, 15-9 scoreline. The Boys 13 & Under saw the title head down the road to Monaghan as Sean Callan defeated Cavan’s Oliver McCrystall 15-7, 15-14 in a close final.
The 15 & Under grade saw impressive performances from Clare’s Chloe Philpott and Wexford’s Mark Doyle to take home the titles. Philpott defeated Amy Brennan from Kilkenny on a 8-15, 11-15, 11-2 scoreline while Doyle defeated Galway’s Mikey Kelly on a 15-7, 15-4 scoreline.
The 17&Under Girls grade saw Kildare’s Mollie Dagg defeat Galway’s Niamh Heffernan on a 15-14, 15-11 scoreline while Monaghan’s Eoghan McGinnity defeated Mayo’s Lorcan Conlon on a 15-5, 15-0 scoreline to cap a fine 4-Wall season for the Monaghan Harps man.
The 19&Under girls grade saw Megan McCann defeat Kildare’s Leah Doyle in the 13-15, 15-8, 11-7 while the Boys 19&Under final also needed a tiebreak to separate the pairing of Wexford’s Adam Walsh and Cork’s Conor Walsh with the Wexford man prevailing on a 15-13, 12-15, 11-9 scoreline.
May saw the attention turn to Hardball with Cork pairing of Daniel Relihan and Michael Hedigan claimed their maiden Hardball Senior Doubles title with victory over Kerry’s Dominick Lynch and John Joe Quirke in Broadford. Cork also won the highly competitive Junior Doubles Final when David Walsh and Jamie O’Donnell overcame Tipperary’s Paul Mullins and Kevin Dempsey in a two gamer on a 21-12, 21-7 score line to secure the title. Elsewhere the Intermediate Doubles title went to Kilkenny’s William Love and Shane Dunne as they defeated Dublin’s Ian Griffin and Michael Carrie.
Westmeath's Robbie McCarthy captured the 2019 Hardball Senior Singles title after overcoming Limerick’s CJ Fitzpatrick on a 21-5, 21-10 score line in Thurles. Kilkenny's Shane Dunne completed the double in the Intermediate grade as he added the Singles title to the Doubles title he won last weekend with victory over Mayo's Patrick Murphy. In the Minor final, Billy O’Neill of Kilkenny defeated Meath’s Daniel Farrelly on a 21-14, 21-5 scoreline while Kerry's Jack O'Shea defeated Cork’s David Walsh in a tight Junior Singles Final on a 21-13, 21-17 scoreline.
The John West sponsored national Féile na nGael Handball competition once again proved to be an exceptional day of Handball as the county’s top young Under 14 Handballers displayed great skills for everyone to enjoy. The action took place at venues across Cork & Limerick. It was one of the largest Handball Féile of all time with 78 teams taking part, almost 400 Boys and Girls involved, and 350 games played in the 4-Wall and 1-Wall grades with team numbers well up on the last few years.
Loughmacrory (Tyrone) were celebrating after almost ten hours of play they emerged victorious in the Boys 4-Wall Div. 1 Final in Fermoy. They overcame Kingscourt (Cavan) by the slimmest of margins. In the Girls 4-Wall Div. 1 Final Lahorna (Tipperary) had a tight two game victory over Kilkishen (Clare) on a final score-line 37-23.
In the 1-Wall Boys Div. 1 competition, this was won by the Clogh Ballacolla (Laois) for the second year in a row as they overcame Oughterard (Galway) 36-11 in the final after an action-packed long day in Conna. While in the 1-Wall Girls Div. 1 Final Galway’s Oughterard are the champions following an exciting final win against Mayobridge of Down yesterday evening. The girls from the west won out on a 37-23 score-line.
Cavan's Paul Brady won the US Nationals title in equaled the record of 11 US 4-Wall Nationals titles, tying with Mexican great Naty Alvarado Snr. Brady saw off Galway's Martin Mulkerrins 21-11, 21-7 in the final in California, erutping with emotion upon sealing the final ace. Meanwhile in the Ladies grade, Catriona Casey bounced back from an opening game loss against Ciana Ni Churraoin to win her 4th US 4-Wall Nationals title on a score line of 4-21, 21-8, 11-0.
Kells HC, Meath captured the GAA Handball All Ireland Softball Senior Club title for an incredible eighth time in as many seasons when they defeated Ballina, Tipperary 77-56 at Crinkle. The Junior title was won by the Ballymore Eustace club Kildare as they overcame Moycullen of Galway 73-35. The Junior B competition saw Friary/Abbeyside (Waterford) overcome Wiliamstown (Galway) on a 60-27 score-line.
The Wallball Nationals once again proved to be the outstanding tournament in World Handball as over 400 competitors descended on Breaffy House to compete in various grades in early July. There was double delight for Galway at the 2019 Irish Wallball Nationals as Ciana Ni Churraoin & Martin Mulkerrins sealed the Elite Men's & Open titles at Breaffy House Arena, Castlebar.Ciana overcame Armagh youngster Megan McCann in the Ladies final. Megan herself had a sensational 31-17 SF win over reigning three time champion Martina McMahon in the semi final but it was Ciana who made the crucial push in the final taking her maiden title on a 15-12, 15-7 scoreline. In the Men's Final, it was a clash of the top two seeds, Martin Mulkerrins and Sean Kerr (Tyrone). Both players wowed the crowd with their pace and athleticism as the lead changed regularly during the opening game. But it was Mulkerrins who took the title 15-11,15-6.
The 6th annual Lough Handball Showdown in Loughmacrory served up another feast of high octane and quality handball over the weekend. Over 200 players from all over Ireland travelled to the mid Tyrone venue to bid for major titles.
In the Mens Open Sean Kerr, who was in blistering form in front of a large Tyrone crowd blitzed his way to a first Lough Showdown crown with a 25-10 victory against the Irish Nationals Champion Martin Mulkerrins. In the Ladies Open Grade the final came down to a shoot-out between the reigning Lough Ladies Showdown Champion, Armagh’s Megan McCann, and former two-time World Champion, Antrim’s Aisling Reilly with Megan McCann picking up her third Ladies Open Showdown title with a 23-21 triumph.
Wexford played host to the 2019 Irish Softbal Nationals hosting a well run event, with great hospitality shown in each facility. In the end Martin Mulkerrins and Martina McMahon captured the Mens & Ladies 2019 Irish Softball Nationals Open titles after strong showings in Castlebridge HC, Wexford. Mulkerrins won his maiden major senior Softball title, impressively seeing off local man Gavin Buggy 15-10, 15-5 in the final. The Ladies Final had a familiar feel to it with reigning champ Catriona Casey & Martin McMahon doing battle having seen off Kilkenny duo Aoife Holden & Ciara Mahon respectively in the SF's. From the off it was Martina's power and precision serving that set the tone in a dominant 15-5, 15-6 showing.
GAA Handball's inaugural Softball Féile sponsored by John West proved to be a tremendous success with 26 teams and 130 of the country's top young Under 14 Handballers displaying great skills for everyone to enjoy. Loughmacrory (Tyrone) were celebrating a Féile double after they emerged victorious in the Boys Div. 1 Final in Taghmon. They overcame Kells (Kilkenny) in the final on a 39-12 score line. In the Girls Div. 1 Final Lahorna (Tipperary) are also double Féile winners as they had a two-game victory over Kilkishen (Clare) on a final score-line 42-14 in Castlebridge. GAA Handball would like to thank all the Wexford clubs for their hospitality and especially all the volunteers at each of these venues that ran everything so smoothly on the day.
The Myclubshop.ie All Ireland Softball Singles championship kicked off in August.
Dublin's Eoin Kennedy rolled back the years on an emotional night at Handball HQ as he captured his tenth Myclubshop.ie Senior Singles title in what surely must rank as one of, if not his sweetest ever victory.
The 40 year old legend rolled back the years with a sensational performance to defeat the 5 in a row chasing Robbie McCarthy 21-20, 21-18 to win his 10th Singles All-Ireland, and the last to be played in the historic Croke Park HC. It was an enthralling game that had the capacity crowd on the edge of their seats throughout.
In the Ladies Final Limerick's Martina McMahon captured her third title following a ruthless display defeating Cork's Catriona Casey in two games. McMahon and Casey have been the two outstanding players in Ladies Handball in recent years and games between the two have been incredibly close. McMahon was dominant throughout and displayed some outstanding shots as she powered her way to a 21-12, 21-9 win.
Meanwhile Kilkenny's Kyle Dunne captured the Minor Singles title following a thrilling tie break victory over Monaghan's Eoghan McGinnity in a 14-21, 21-13, 21-18 win in today's first game. Kildare’s Leah Doyle captured the Ladies Minor Final with victory over Mayo’s Cuileann Bourke on a 21-14, 21-3 scoreline.
Brian Carroll and Gary McConnell retained their Myclubshop.ie Softball Doubles title with a 21-11, 21-7 victory over Westmeath's Robbie McCarthy and Colm Jordan on a nostalgic night at Handball HQ in Croke Park. On the night that GAA Handball said goodbye to the old centre as it gets ready to move into the state of the art new National Handball Centre the Royal county took the honours once more as Meath captured their 18th title. The Meathmen were dominant from the start in this encounter and while Westmeath fought hard in the first the Meathmen stepped up a gear to pull away in the second and seal the title in two games.
Kilkenny’s Kyle Dunne and Billy O’Neill claimed the MyClubShop.ie All-Ireland Minor Softball Doubles title with a 21-15, 21-10 win over Monaghan’s Eoghan McGinnity and Tiernan O’Rourke. Kilkenny's Shane Dunne made it a memorable family night capturing the Myclubshop.ie Intermediate singles title. Dunne was too strong for his opponent from Tyrone Ryan Mullan winning out on a 21-12, 21-7 scoreline.
Cork's Catriona Casey and Aishling O'Keeffe won the Ladies Senior Doubles for the seventh year in succession with a 21-12, 21-7 win over Ciara Mahon and Aoife Holden of Kilkenny.
The cream of Ireland’s Juvenile Softball players converged on Moycullen and St Comans to battle it out for the 2019 MyClubShop.ie All Ireland titles in the Softball code. Eleven counties in all competed with Cork topping the medals table with FOUR titles. Galway, Roscommon and Tipperary took home two while Clare, Kilkenny, Sligo, Tyrone and Wexford all taking one title back to their respective counties to complete a very successful weekend of Handball. The game of the day was the Boys U16 Singles Final with Galway’s Mikey Kelly defeating Kilkenny’s Billy Drennan in a high-quality match. The Girls U16 Singles Final saw Kilkenny’s Amy Brennan defeat Galway’s Sadhbh Ní Fhlaithearta 21-19, 21-4 in another high quality game.
The 2019 Softball Juvenile Team of 6/4 competitions was hosted by the Ballina club in Tipperary. In the U12/13 competition Kilkenny had a good win over a Cork team in the final to win 90-30 in the end. In the U14/15 competition Tipperary had a good win over a much-fancied Kilkenny side in the first semi-final, while Galway received a bye in the other semi-final. In the final the strong Galway team just proved too powerful for the Munster team and in the end the team from the west won the final on a score-line 76-55.
Leinster clubs Clogh, Kilfane and Talbots Inch hosted the semi-finals and finals of this year’s Softball All Ireland Colleges. In the Girls Junior Singles Final Kilkenny’s Amy Brennan of Castlecomer CS won this title for the second year in a row as she overcame Chloe Philpott St. Joseph’s Tulla 15-2, 15-5. The Girls Junior Doubles title went to Roscommon CC as Carragh Kennedy and Siobhan Treacy defeated Lauren Power and Holly Byrne of Heywood CS, Laois. In the Girls Blue Riband event the Senior Singles, Noelle Dowling of Presentation College Kilkenny was awarded the title as Laura Shinners Borrisokane CC and Cuileann Bourke Balla SS both could not play. While the Girls Senior Doubles title went to Limerick’s Ciara McCarthy and Aisling Shanahan (Hazelwood College) as they defeated Laois sisters Aoife and Una Brophy Coláiste Mhuire Johnstown 15-10, 15-8.
In the Boys competitions, the Junior Singles final was won by Kilkenny’s Kyle Jordan of Greenan College when he accounted for Rory Carthy of Roscommon CBS after two tight games. The Junior Doubles title went to Gary McAleer/Thomas Duff Dean Maguirc Carrickmore when they overcame Charlie Treen/Jack Power of St. Augustine’s Dungarvan. The Boys Intermediate Singles final was won by Mark Doyle of Wexford CBS after a tight three game victory over Mikey Kelly of Clarin College, Galway 4-15, 15-11, 15-13. While the Boys Intermediate Doubles was won by Joe Devereux/David Doyle representing St. Peter’s College, Wexford as they overcame St. Augustine’s partnership of William Beresford/Sean Callaghan.
The Boys Senior Doubles title went to the strong Kilkenny pairing of Kyle Dunne/Billy O’Neill of Castlecomer CS when they overcame Darragh Ducey/Evan Enright of Boherbue Comp. Cork 15-3, 15-11. Finally, the Boys Blue Riband event namely the Boys Senior Singles final went to Monaghan’s Eoghan McGinnity representing St. Macartan’s Monaghan where he overcame Dylan Hanley, Roscommon CBS after three tight games on a 13-15, 15-4, 15-4 score-line.
Munster claimed the 2019 Girls Softball Interprovincial Team of Six in Broadford. In the final Munster overcame Leinster after a very tight contest that went down to the very last match before they won on the score-line 84-61.
GAA Handball hosted its first ever Club Forum in November. The theme of the day was "Growing Together" and a full and informative selection of speakers were lined up. We were delighted to have over 35 clubs represented on the day and from the feedback we have received so far, each club has gained knowledge and are keen for more of these types of forums to be held.
The 4-Wall season opened with a bang with some fantastic handball at the Golden Gloves in Belfast. In the game of the weekend, Martina McMahon just edged Catriona Casey to claim the Ladies Open title, in yet another classic between these two incredible players. McMahon won out on a scoreline of 15-13, 11-9, much to the joy of the packed galleries. In the Men's Open Robbie McCarthy showed his classas he blitzed Colin Crehan in the final.
The 2019 GAA Handball season came to a close with the 4-Wall Inter-club All Ireland Championships. In the Open grade Moycullen (Galway) took the premier title for the first time when they defeated Kells (Meath) in the final on a 66-57 score-line. In the Junior final Broadford defeated Carrickmore 60-42 while in the Junior B competition Breacach (Tyrone) overcame Kells (Meath) 71-62.
The bright lights of Croke Park played host to the cream of GAA Handball players and volunteers as a large crowd gathered in Croke Park to reflect on and celebrate the 2019 year at the O'Neills GAA Handball All Star awards. The red carpet was full of style as the Handball public dressed to impress on a night of celebration and glamour. The night recognised both volunteers and players as 6 volunteer awards and 4 player awards were presented by Uachtarán Joe Masterson and Cormac Farrell from sponsors O'Neills.
The undoubted star of the night was Alanna Coggeran from Kilglass Gaels, a young Handballer with an enormous talent for singing as she wowed the crowd with her own Handball version of The Galway Girl that she rewrote herself aswell as the Lumineers hit Hey Ho aided by her father John and Greenday's Time of your life. She thanked GAA Handball for inviting her to perform on what she described as the best day of her life as she finished off her set with another rewritten version of the American Authors hit Best Day of my life to a standing ovation from the large crowd present. Alanna certainly has a bright future ahead of her.
Following the break for entertainment the Players of the Year were announced. First up were the Young Players with a repeat of 2018 as Kildare's Leah Doyle and Monaghan's Eoghan McGinnity took the Female and Male awards respectively following outstanding years for both. Next up the Female Player of the Year Award went to Cork with Catriona Casey taking home the accolade of Female Player of the Year while Westmeath's Robbie McCarthy collected the final award the Male Player of the Year to cap off a fine season for the Mullingar man.
REWIRED kept the crowd on their feet until the end of the night as the 2019 GAA Handball season was closed off in style.
Martin Mulkerrins claimed his first major ranking win of the Irish 4-Wall season, defeating Diarmaid Nash in the Final of the Breacach Open in Tyrone 15-7, 15-11. In the Ladies Open, a now standard final saw Catriona Casey & Martina McMahon do battle, with Casey coming out on top in two straight games. It was not the usual classic one would expect from the pair, but high quality none the less, and impressed the gallery.