The 8th Irish One-wall Nationals 2004 by Michael McGee
Dessie Keegan from the Ballaghedeerean Club in Mayo claimed his second One Wall National title in four years with a straight sets victory over the reigning champion Carl Browne from Meath in an entertaining final writes Michael McGee.
Sligo yet again hosted the event on July 10/11th last and the Committee led by the experienced Conal Cannon and Secretary John Mc Loughlin deserve all the plaudits. Again, there was a big entry in excess of 125 entries in events ranging from Boys and Girls U-14 right up to Diamond Masters. Sligo IT, Ballymote and Collooney courts were used. When I arrived on Friday evening John McLoughlin and his team were putting the final changes to the Ballisodare Open Court where Sunday’s finals were due to take place. Unfortunately, their hard work was in vain, as frequent showers on Sunday morning forced the organizers to hold the finals indoors in the Collooney Court. Saturday’s qualifying games started at 9.00 am and continued right through until 8.30 that evening. With full days, qualifying matches being played in Sligo IT, Collooney and Ballymote on the Saturday. I was based in Sligo in IT where the Boys and Girls U-14, and C singles took place. One of the matches of the day was between Caolan Daly from the Carrickmore Club in Tyrone up against the Ian Mc Loughlin from Mayo (a young Dessie Keegan in the making). Daly last years U-14 champion had to battle all the way before finally coming through narrowly. On the Sunday morning, games started at 9.00 with all the Cup and Plate Semi-finals still to be played off. The viewing gallery quickly filled up and just about held everyone that wanted to view the finals. Eventually the first of the finals began with the Girls U-14 decider between Siobhan Gilligan from the Abbeylara Club in Longford up against Leona Doolin from Roscommon. It was a repeat of last years decider in which Gilligan won but this time Doolin turned the tables winning by 15-11, 15-8.
Two in a row for Caolan Daly
Next on the programme was the Boys U-14 final between Caolan Daly from Carrickmore aiming for two in a row against his club mate Conor Grogan. It was a fantastic contest between the two stars. Grogan played the better handball in the early stages going 7-3 up but Daly then clawed his way back point by point to draw level with Grogan at 7-7. Scores were again tied at 10 all. Daly looked to have it wrapped it up when serving for the first game at 14-11 but Grogan with great battling qualities saved game ball and got two points before he double faulted giving Daly the advantage of serving game ball once again. Grogan again saved the game and had his chance of winning the first game but could not avail of it. It was frantic action at the end of game one before Grogan just held out to win after Daly’s return shot out over the left side giving Grogan a narrow first game win by 15-14. There was not much to separate either in game two. Grogan full of confidence raced into an 8-3 lead before Daly hit a purple patch gained and hit four points in a row. Grogan showing a little inexperience rushed a number of shots as Daly drew level soon after. It was a very close contest with scores also level at 11 and 12. Daly managed to get the remaining three points to snatch a win thus setting up the first tiebreak in this years finals. After scores were level at 2-2 Daly took control while the young Grogan seemed to lose confidence in his own ability and a number of wayward shots cost him dearly in the end. In the end, Daly completed a memorable two in a row winning the tiebreak by 11-3.
LAWLOR WINS TITLE FOR THE KINGDOM
In the Girls U-16 Final, there was an all Kerry representation between Karen Lawlor and Ashley Prenderville. Again, it was a great contest Lawlor lead early on in game one by 4-0. Prenderville gaining in confidence hit back to level at 4-4. It was very close up to point number 11. Lawlor got the lucky breaks at the right and served an ace to take the first game by 15-11. With scores level at 3-3 in game two Prenderville had chances to go ahead but in her next two serves she tossed her hand out on both occasions and Lawlor was not able to go clear and build up a lead. It was Prenderville who looked the sharper going clear at 6-3. Both players were very even and traded points. It was finely balanced at 9-9 but Prenderville receiving great encouragement from her father got the next six scores to bring it to a third and deciding game. In the tiebreak Lawlor proved the stronger hitting 5 points in a row and she was getting great power in her shots while Prenderville’s challenge fell away. In the end, Lawlor was the worthy winner winning the tiebreak by 11-3.
Before the Senior Final commenced Tony Hayes President of the Irish Handball Council spoke and mentioned it was his third year to attend the One Wall Nationals in Sligo and said on behalf of the IHC thanked Conall Cannon and John McLoughlin for an excellent job very well done and this was greeted with a great round of applause from the packed gallery. Hayes mentioned that he would like to see One Wall introduced into the schools. It is also a great way for people to come and enjoy themselves. Hayes on behalf of the Irish Handball Council made a special presentation to Conall Cannon for his dedication and commitment in organising the Nationals over the past six years.
KEEGAN IS BACK
Next was the big one between Carl Browne the champion and the challenger Dessie Keegan from Mayo, Keegan served first and forced Browne go full stretch to return it and Dessie put the ball nicely away to get off the mark. Keegan looked the more impressive when building up a commanding 7-1 lead. Keegan put in a great service to Browne’s right, which the Meath man returned, and Dessie put the resulting return down the right as Browne anticipated the shot going to his left. Dessie was now 8-2 to the good. Keegan with awesome serving forced Browne to rush his shot over the sideline with the Mayo man six points ahead (9-3) Dessie got an excellent ace with the ball landing perfectly at the back line for 10-4. Browne began to play great handball when serving two gems of aces of his own to Keegan’s right side. Keegan was serving for the first game at 14-7 but Browne the Meath Brave heart that he is never give up and with accurate serving combined with a number of errors by Keegan saw Browne edge ever closer to Keegan’s lead. For point number 14 Browne had a tremendous ace to Keegan’s right as the Mayo man did not even have time to move over as the ball was spinning towards the back wall before he could attempt to return it. Dessie managed to get Browne out and take the first game as Browne’s return ended up going over the sideline giving Keegan a rather lucky first game win by the narrow margin of 15-14. At 3-3 in the second Dessie asserted his authority and hit for home with a big 14-3 lead. Browne as in game one fought back magnificently forcing Keegan either to shoot from far out or to rush his shots. Browne had a nice tap into front wall for point number nine but it was to prove to be his last score. Dessie took his second One Wall title in four years with a straight passing shot down the right as Browne lay stranded on the floor.
DALY DEFEATS DONNOLLY IN ALL CARRICKMORE FINAL
In the Men’s C Final was an all Carrickmore final between Darragh Daly and Michael Donnolly. Daly had much the better start hitting Donnolly for seven. Daly with a fine over hand serve was waiting for any weak returns from Donnolly at the front wall and gained a number of scores from this tactic. Daly proved the better player in game one winning convincingly by 15-7. Game two seen Donnolly giving it everything his performance greatly improved as he fought level at 7-7. Both players fought for supremacy and Donnolly certainly was not going down without a fight he drew level at 12, 13 mark. Daly got the two important scores when he passed Donnolly on the left side and on game ball, Donnolly shot wide of the front wall to give Daly the title. In other finals Marion Kennedy from Galway beat Mairead O’ Riabhaigh- O’Duill from Armagh by 6-15, 15-5, 11-3 in the Ladies final. There was an historic final between Francis Carroll and his son Brian from Kells. In the end it was the young Carroll who came through by 15-12, 15-9. Robbie McCarthy Snr Westmeath kept up his winning sequence in the Nationals when getting the better of Francis McCann of Sligo in three games by 6-15, 15-13, 11-5. In the Golden Masters Peter Larkin from Monaghan defeated Richard Willoughby the reigning champion by 15-6, 15-4. Nicholas Clancy Galway defeated Tom O’ Connor from Wicklow in the Diamond Masters by 15-4, 15-4.