Charly Shanks from the Clann Eireann club in Armagh won his first ever National One Wall open title with a blistering display of power serving over James Doyle also from Armagh on Sunday July 1st .
The Eleventh One Wall Nationals were hosted by Sligo yet again. It proved to be the biggest entry in the history of Irish One Wall with the overall entry of 165 exceeding all expectations. There was an extra incentive for the players in the Men’s & Ladies Open and Boys & Girls U-18 winners and runners-up going onto represent Ireland in an International handball tournament in the Basque Country next November.
Because of the unavailability of Sligo IT games were also played in Ballaghaderreen & Williamstown in Galway. There was exceptional handball played in the qualifying games particular where Abbeylara’s Damien O’ Connor was given a stern test by Barry Devlin from Tyrone and Sean McNally from Down before reaching the final in the C grade. Over in Collooney there was exciting action too in the Boys U-18 grade where Ian McLoughlin from Newport and Steven Cooney from Ballaghaderreen met for the second time in a week. McLoughlin took the Connacht title the previous week but Cooney learned a lot in those 7 days as he reversed the previous weeks result to set up a final meeting with Caolin Daly of Tyrone.
Games were played down to the finals late on Saturday evening but still there was the Men’s Open singles semi-finals played in Ballymote on Sunday morning. Charly Shanks defeated 4 times champion David King from Carlow by 18-14 while James Doyle just make it through after extra time over Michael Gregan from Wicklow in a cliff hanger by 20-19. Collooney hosted the adult finals while Ballymote was used to play the Juvenile finals. First final to be played in the 2007 One Wall Nationals finals was the Diamond Masters between Morgan Darcy and Nicholas Clancy both from the Moycullen Club in Galway. Darcy took the first game by 15-5 but some how escaped with a narrow 15-14 win in the second with both players serving for the second game.
Doolin’s strong finish
In the Girls U-18 final there was an all St. Coman’s Roscommon final between Leona Doolin & Marianna Rushe. Even a power cut could not take away from an exciting final. Michael Naughton the girls coach was in the inevitable position of now knowing who to shout for. Rushe taking the first game impressively by 15-8. Even the 2 swallows perched high overhead could only look down in amazement with the feast of handball being shown by the two young stars. The second game was very tense with no player getting any great lead. Rushe continued her form in the second game and had a small advantage leading by 7-3. Doolin came more into the contest and applied plenty of pressure. She forced Rushe into a number off errors and tied the game at 9-9. Rushe looked to be on the way to a win when leading 13-9. Doolin, however refused to panic and with excellent returns and angled winning points was just 13-12 behind. Rushe looked to have it wrapped up after Doolin slipped in the centre but somehow on game ball tossed her hand out. Doolin seen her chance given to her and made no mistake bringing the contest to a tie breaker. Rushe got the better start in the tie breaker leading 3-0. But from there to the finish Doolin excelled. Last years World 15 & Under world champion got stronger and Rushe began to wilt under the constant onslaught. Doolin was composed and showed maturity beyond her years. Rushe panicked and began making mistakes. In the end it finished 11-3 in Doolin’s favour.
Gordon win’s Men’s C final
Next final was the Men’s C final between Abbeylara’s Damien O’ Connor & Niall Gordon from Roscommon. Gordan had the brighter opening lead of 5-1. Gordan scored an excellent ace straight down the right with the Abbey man hardly even moved. 0’Connor has great potential as a One Wall player and fought hard to get back into it but he wasn’t firing on all cylinders as the previous day. Still he was only 2 adrift at 11-9. It was the nearest he was going to get as the St. Coman’s player taking game 1 by 15-11.
O’Connor came out for the second game with renewed hope and was full value for his 5-1 lead. Abbeylara’s supporters in the packed gallery got behind their player but instead it uplifted Gordan and then the game began to sway in Gordan’s favour. The match was now tied at 5-5. O’Connor put 2 returns wide of the front wall and these were to cost him dearly in the end. Gordan getting the scores as O’Connor forced into making hurried returns which invariably had not the accuracy to trouble the Roscommon man. Gordan eventually taking the title after O’Connor’s high return landed over the back line.
Daly delivers another one wall title for Carrickmore
In the Men’s B final seen Niall Flynn from the Abbeylara club in Longford up against Darragh Daly from the Carrickmore club in Tyrone. This was the match of the day. Flynn’s high tempo game is exciting to watch but his hurried returns helped Daly into a 9-4 lead. Flynn fought back to be only 9-7 behind. However the Abbeylara star could not get any closer as Daly great experience and better use of the court helped him to a 15-7 win in game one.
One thing about Flynn he never stops trying and he was rewarded in the second game going into a 9-1 lead. Still he somehow he let a big lead slip and Daly very nearly caught him at 10-9 behind. It was gripping handball as Flynn finished strongly winning 15-9 and forcing the tie break.
Daly’s great fitness told in the tie break as he kept gaining winning scores as Flynn’s resolve began to unravel. At 8-1 he was as good as home and dry but Flynn gave every ounce of energy to get back into it and got two scores. Daly was not going to be denied and he moved up to senior ranks at last after a great battle.
In the Ladies final Ashley Prendiville from Kerry faced Katie Costello another St.Coman’s star. Prendiville taking the first game quite comfortably by 15-5. Prendiville from the Ballymacelligott club went ahead by 6-3 in the second but Costello fought back well to draw level at 8-8. There was nothing separating them as scores were also tied at 10, 12, 13 & 14. Prendiville got the winning score with a straight passing shot to Costello’s right side. I asked Prendiville shortly afterwards what were her thoughts on winning the Ladies final? “It was a great game and great to win as I have lost in Sligo the last 2 occasions third time lucky” said the relieved Champion.
Shanks spin serves destroys Doyle in final
The eagerly awaited Men’s final was now only minutes away. It was fascinating watching the players warming up. Doyle punishing the ball with such power while Shanks just glides around the court with such athleticism. Right from the off Shanks meant business. Doyle tried to stay in contention at 3-3. Shanks with awesome power in his serves landing directly in front of Doyle and suddenly the trajectory of the ball would either go left or right forcing Doyle doing well to keep the ball in play. Shanks spin on the serves was a treat to watch but for a struggling Doyle it was a tactic he did not fully anticipate to such an extent. It worked a treat for Shanks as Doyle could not get the full power to off load onto the front wall. As the game wore on Shanks had great belief as after each point won he would clench his fist. He was supremely confident. Shanks took the first game by 15-7. It was a polished performance from Shanks as he never allowed Doyle to get a foothold into the match. Shanks showed no mercy and Doyle just couldn’t break down Shanks serves. It was frustrating for Doyle who came into the championships as the warm favourite in many people minds but Shanks spin serves cruelly exposed Doyle’s shortcomings. In the end Shanks won his first Open One Wall singles title by 15-3. Charly was naturally pleased when I interviewed afterwards. “It was great to get a win under your belt came the reply from the quiet spoken Armagh man. Next question I put to Charly that he was very pumped up to win and the spin serve killed James in the end. “Yeah I played James a couple of months ago. He was serving well up in Lurgan and I knew when I went in today if he got that serve going I would be in serious trouble. So I had to get off to a quick start and knew that I had to spin the ball in on top of him. If he got that big swing with that right arm the ball was gone”.
I asked Conall Cannon what went into hosting this years championships? The fact we have done it, this is the 8th year. There is a template there already. There was an increased entry off 165 and what we do is actually make the draws, time every single match and then figure what length of time each competition will take. Not getting the IT this year and the increasing numbers we had to look for 3 extra venues outside Sligo. We got Roscommon, Ballaghaderreen & Williamstown and we owe a big thanks to them for coming to our assistance.
With the standards increasing do you feel its time now that Ireland sends teams to play in the World One Wall Championships and the Big Blue Nationals in America? Conall replied saying “I have been saying that for years on end especially since I became Connacht Secretary. The kids that win the 40 x 20 represent Ireland and absolutely yes the winners of the One Wall should be representing Ireland in the World Championships.”
Next question put to the Connacht Secretary was what pleased him most over the weekend? “The fun and the craic and meeting the same people that have been coming for years and years the Willoughby’s and the Abbeylara crowd. They come back and enjoy it. We become friends and it’s good to meet them again.”
Finally question put to Conall will we all be back in Sligo for 2008?
Hopefully! Was the last word from a satisfied and contented Conall Cannon.
The One Wall Nationals are now an integral part on the handball calendar. Since 1999 when Sligo took over the hosting of the One Wall Nationals numbers have risen from 60 in 1999 and been increasing steadily there after. The likes of Connell Cannon, Francis McCann, John McLoughlin amongst others deserve every praise and recognition for their super human efforts each year in organising the Nationals. Just before Conall Cannon left Collooney after a very long day Charly Shanks came out of the dressing rooms and thanked the Connacht Secretary. It was a lovely gesture by Charly and Cannon’s warm smile said it all.
The remaining winners are as follows
Golden Masters Martin Bruen (Roscommon) dft Brian Havern (Down) 15-3, 15-10
BU12 Darren Doherty (Monaghan) dft Patrick McCrory (Tyrone) 4-15, 15-6, 11-9
BU14 Keith Cavanagh (Wicklow) dft Niall O’Connnor (Kildare) 15-9, 15-13
BU16 Caolan Daly(Tyrone) dft Stephen Cooney (Mayo) 15-2, 15-5
BU18 Diarmuid Nash (Clare) dft Niall Malone (Clare) 15-3, 15-1
GU14 Cianna Ni Churraoin (Galway) dft Jenna Donohue (Galway) 15-5, 15-14
GU16 Shauna Hilley Wicklow) dft Lorraine Havern (Down) 15-8, 14-15, 11-4
GU18 Leona Doolin (Roscommon) dft Marianna Rushe (Roscommon) 8-15, 15-14, 11