Last Saturday saw history made at Breacach, Co Tyrone as two members of the host club claimed the All-Ireland Men’s and Ladies Senior Singles titles in the wallball code, writes Paul Fitzpatrick.
For Conor McElduff, it was business as usual as the 29-year-old right-hander claimed his fourth All-Ireland senior medal in the wallball code (to go with six Irish Nationals titles). His clubmate Eilise McCrory, however, claimed her maiden senior title as she saw off two of the leading players in the world in Catriona Casey and Fiona Tully en route to glory.
McElduff was handed a bye in his semi-final as Munster champion James Prentice (Tipperary) withdrew. In the final, he took on powerful Louthman Ben Devlin, who has recently made a welcome return to action after being sidelined due to injury.
The Tyrone ace was well in control in game one at 13-3 before Devlin came roaring back with some superb shots, including some trick shots which wowed the crowd, to win 15-13.
The champion did not panic, however, and finding his range on serve and attacking the ball on the fly, he dominated the front of the court to win game two 15-4 and he closed out the tiebreaker 11-3, having fallen 3-0 down early on.
“Well, I’m happy to see Ben Devlin back playing as he is a quality player with probably the best serve I’ve faced this year,” McElduff said after his win.
“I was annoyed afterwards letting such a lead go in the first. However, I remained calm and patient, knowing if I focused and didn’t take the foot of the gas so to speak I’d get the result and luckily enough that happened.
“The aim for me now is to keep the winning streak going, I’m heading to Belgium on November 4 to try win the Belgium Open, I’ll be putting all my efforts into that, then I’ll play in a few 40x20 tournaments to finish the year off and make a big push for the senior 40x20 in the new year.”
Meanwhile, McElduff’s clubmate McCrory was in brilliant form on her home court. In the semi-final against Casey, she won the first game 15-12 but dropped the second 15-3.
In the tiebreaker, she raced into a 9-1 lead and then 10-4 but the brilliant Cork superstar rallied to reach 8-10 before McCrory, who is employed as a full-time Regional Development Officer with GAA Handball, closed out the match with a sidearm kill off the left in centre-court.
In the final, McCrory saw off Roscommon dual star Fiona Tully by a wafer-thin margin, 15-14, 15-14.
It marked a first senior All-Ireland for the Tyrone woman and prompted jubilant scenes at the Breacach club.
“The win for me at the weekend was very unexpected. I wanted to at most have a decent game against Catriona in the semi, never mind take the title,” McCrory said modestly.
“It was amazing to win my first senior title at home with all my family and clubmates there cheering me on.
“I knew to expect nothing but hard handball from Fiona in the final and with our pattern of play, I knew it was going to go to the wire. Thankfully, no tie breakers this time. But even now it's hard to fully understand what has happened but I just know I'm very, very happy with the result.”
Elsewhere, Armagh’s Fiachra Ó Dhúill and Wexford’s Jodie Keeling continued their dominance of the Minor grades in all codes.
Ó Dhúill, who is already ranked among the top senior wallball players, defeated Galway’s Conor Hession 15-3, 15-2 in the final while Keeling saw off Ava Sweeney, also from Galway, 15-4, 13-15, 11-2.
Waterford’s Anthony Fitzgerald and Tyrone’s Caitlin Conway won the respective Junior Singles titles, with Armagh’s James Doyle and Tyrone’s Michelle Warren landing the Masters titles on what was a brilliant day for the Red Hand county in particular, Elizabeth McGarvey adding the Junior B.
Full results here .
Photos by Eilish Owens.