Armagh were well represented at last weekend’s Irish One Wall Nationals at the world class Sports Arena in Breaffy Resort, Castlebar, Co. Mayo.
As predicted, Clann Eireann girl Niamh Coleman secured yet another National title at the weekend, Megan McCann caused an upset, taking out the top two seeds to win the 13&U title. 18year old Conall McCavitt finished at Number 3 in the Men’s Open, sealing his place on the Irish Team.
The highly talented Niamh Coleman led the charge of our juveniles. Competing in the Girls 15&U grade, the World Champion Coleman was in a class of her own. She overcame Ella Donnellan in her semi-final with ease. Fiona Tully from the St. Coman’s club in Roscommon won her way through the other half of the draw to set up a re-play of the World final with the Clann Eireann girl. Tully who is a major talent in her own right with numerous provincial and All-Ireland victories on her resume seemed to fear Niamh as the two took to the court. However, at the beginning of the game Tully settled and put it up to the Lurgan lass but that was to last only a few minutes until Niamh played her own, true One Wall game. A real joy to watch in action, Coleman who would give any of the Senior Ladies a game went on to win the title 29-9.
Another wonderful prospect, Clann Eireann’s Aoife McConville lost her first round match in the Girls 15&U, she then went on to win the Doubles plate competition.
Younger sister, Dearbhla Coleman was number one seed in the 13&U Grade. Dearbhla who is also a World Champion played Tyrone’s Michaela McCartan in the semi-final and was down 11-3, made an amazing comeback to win the match by a four point margin.
The other semi-final saw clubmate, Megan McCann cause her first major shock as she overcame number two seed Kildare’s Leah Doyle in a 5-1 tie-break finish to set up an all Clann Eireann National final.
Dearbhla and Megan who both train together, under the tutelage of Coach of the Year, Pedsy McMahon left their friendships court-side as a National title was up for grabs. McCann who wore the underdog tag so well in the semi-final continued to do so in the final with well-placed serving and excellent kills she won her first One Wall National title 18-16.
Beth Doris and Meabh McCambridge also played in the Girls 13&U and although they both lost their first round matches, they played magnificent in the Doubles Plate.
Cailiosa NiDhuill from St. Killian’s had a shock loss in her first round game, but teamed up with Strokestown’s Sadbh Cusack and reached the final of the Girls 11&U Doubles, only losing by a 2point margin.
Our youngest player, 8year old Fiachra ODuill played a brilliant first game against 10year old Sean Coughlan from Clare, winning 23-13. He was then beaten by World Champion 11 year old Eoghan McGinnity in the second round. Finbarr McConville also secured victory in his first round game and although he bowed out in his second round, he showed great promise and was also a wonderful help to the organisers all weekend.
Peadar Magill and Adam Doris lost their first round matches and both played exceptionally in the doubles plate. Doris who was paired with Mark Doyle of Wexford made it all the way to the final.
McCavitt at Number Four played Mayo’s Stephen Cooney in the Quarter-Final. Such a match was always going to prove a difficult one to win after the ding-ding final both men competed just a few short weeks ago when McCavitt advanced as Champion of Mount Talbot. The packed arena was treated to an absorbing game of Handball. The Connaught man held an 8-point lead 10minutes in, then young Conall got into his stride and pulled off some magnificent shots and took control of proceedings, leading by four points with less than a minute on the clock. However, Cooney was real value for money, pulling off four rapid serves and kills to equal the game at full time 28-28. The tie-breaker was played, first to five where a draw would have been a fair result in another sport, Cooney took the lead 4-2 and on match point he had a hand error, hitting a ball into the floor, giving the Clann Eireann young gun the chance which he needed as he finished off the match 5-4.
The semi-final against Number 1, New York’s Herman Mendez was just a step too far for Conall. Managing to get 20points off Mendez and preventing him from closing the game before the time was up was an achievement in itself. Mendez played a simple game against McCavitt, saving himself for the final, a strategy which Conall almost punished him for. For the first fifteen minutes, the Cullyhanna boy really give the former Champion a great game with scores exchanging and equaling on numerous occasions, before Mendez stepped up a gear in the last few minutes to advance to the final 28-20.
Conall then played off 3rd/4th place in order to seal his place on the Irish Team, which will travel to the World Games at the end of the month. Conall has been one of the most consistent players this year and on paper it looked like he would have an easy victory over Mayo veteran Vinnie Moran. In the beginning of the game, Conall was very clinical in his serving and killing and had a great lead before Moran playing with similar spirit his younger brother Andy possesses on the football field – gave it all he had. The game finished in McCavitt’s favour by a four point margin gaining his first (of many) Senior Irish Team place as a result of playing in the senior ranks.
Conall will travel to Cali, Columbia for the World Games at the end of July. He will play doubles with Cork’s Killian Carroll who finished as Irish Number one – Carroll beat St. Killian’s man James Doyle en-route to the final where he took Mendez to a tie-breaker, almost beating the American. Conall and Killian will be a force to be reckoned with and everyone in Armagh GAA Handball wish both men all the best of luck as they will fly the Irish flag with great pride.
Maith sibh to all players, coaches and parents.
Mol an oige agus tiocfaidh siad.