Armagh Senior Handballer, St. Killian’s man James Doyle captured the Mount Talbot Open One Wall Singles Crown on Sunday evening. A day previous, his young daughter Cailiosa put on a fabulous display of handball becoming the first Champion of the weekend in the Girls Under 10 competition.
There were more than 400games played over the weekend, in the biggest tournament of the year to date. It was down to the blue riband event, and one of the most keenly contested finals of recent times as the two athletes had the spectators at the end of their seats in the sizzling encounter.
Played in front of a capacity crowd in Ballygar, Co. Galway, it was a case of the Master and the pupil as Doyle gave Galway’s Martin Mulkerrins a lesson.
The Galway man won the toss and had the advantage of serving in the first game. It was a very tit-for-tat beginning with many handouts and excellent retrieving from both players, although Mulkerrins edged away, adding scores each time he had the serve. Doyle although playing excellent one wall and ending many rallies, was failing to secure points on the scoreboard. With the Connaught man at 10-5 up, Doyle began to wake up and play his own style, although it proved too little too late as Mulkerrins closed off the opening game 15-8.
Many spectators could have been forgiven for assuming that with Mulkerrins’ current play, he may take the title. Doyle however, failed to read that script.
With five minutes between games, the Whitecross player used his time wisely, getting out of the alley, refueling the body and had a lengthy discussion with his wife before returning – looking much more focused and determined.
Doyle had the serving advantage in the second game, but couldn’t capitalise on it due to the killing return of Mulkerrins. They both played magnificent shots and many of the retrievals had the crowd in rapturous applause in appreciation of the final that was now unfolding before them. At two a piece, the second game looked like anybody’s, then the South Armagh man notched up a few scores and then sprinted for what looked for an impossible retrieval which set the place alight. As he waved his hands for further encouragement from the spectators, the momentum was very much in the former Newry and Mourne Sports Star’s favour. Doyle remained dominant thoughtout the second game and although the agile Connaught player fought for every single ball, there was nothing he could do about the onslaught as the orchard star took game two in fine style, most notably his retrieval soft kill shot from outside the court to take his to 14. He didn’t require a second chance to finish the game 15-6.
The Whitecross maestro re-enacted what he done between the first two games, he carried out the same ritual. At 36years of age, his meticulous training regime was ever so evident as he returned to the court for the tie-breaker to 11 points every inch as fresh as he had been before the game.
As Doyle had accumulated more points over the two games, he was automatically serving. Mulkerrins who trains under Doyle’s coaching plan was able to stick with the master for the first few points and they indeed tied on three a piece. Doyle’s serving was seomthing of a show on it’s own, securing many aces en-route to lifting the Mens Open title 8-15 15-6 11-5.
It is hard to believe that just over one year ago the St. Killian’s man who suffers from severe Crohn’s Disease lost most of the sight in his left eye. For many people who watched on in awe of his exploits all weekend, it was never apparent.
In a most touching gesture, Doyle presented a young Monaghan player (who lost the sight in his right eye five years ago,) the U-12plate winner, with his signature tri-colour goggles after the final.
Enroute to the final, Doyle accounted for 2011 Nationals Plate winner, Clare’s Niall Malone, Roscommon’s Chris Doolin and Mayo’s Ciaran Burke.
U-10 Title for NiDhuill
In the first final of the weekend, James’ daughter, Cailiosa NiDhuill captured the Under10 title. She went into the tournament as Number one seed and with her impressive displays, that was well deserved. In the final, Cailiosa met Inis Mor Champion Shauna Clougher from Mount Talbot. The two had previously met in the Williamstown tournament just two weeks ago with NiDhuill the victor on that occasion. A timed final, the Bunscoil an Iuir pupil ran into a commanding 9-3 lead. The home girl had a lot of support with her, and was able to claw back at the margin and managed to level at 10 each. With less than three minutes left on the clock, Clougher notched up another point and as the roof almost lifted from the building with the hometown applause, NiDhuill put the head down and returned the serve hard down to Clougher’s left to win the serve. The St. Killian’s girl played a great few minutes, with strong serving and powerful passing shots, winning on a scoreline of 17-11.
Clann Eireann’s Conall McCavitt was also in action in the Mens Open and although he lost out in his first round match against the more experienced Mulkerrins, he played in the plate competition, securing victory with relative ease. Conall has had a great run in the Open grade as he now prepares for the 17and Under Nationals. The Nationals Champion will automatically gain a place on the Irish Team for the forthcoming Worlds. Conall is clear favourite for the Nationals.
Also in competition this weekend was Maighread ODuill who was forced to pull out after a few minutes in her first game in the Ladies Open due to a hand injury – she sustained a glass cut during the week and although it was stitched and well strapped it couldn’t sustain the power which ODuill wished to use. She will not use it for a few weeks leading up to the Nationals.
Fiachra ODuill, also St. Killian’s at just seven was the youngest in the competition. Although he is perhaps boxing above his weight at the minute in the U-10 competition, he’s still able to hold his own and made it to the plate semi-final – putting on impressive displays along the way receiving a medal for his efforts.
Eugene Quinn player Brian McAnenly played in the Boys U-16 bracket, having won a few games, he lost out to eventual champion, Johnny Woods of Tyrone in the quarter-final.
Many of the Clann Eireann young Handballers were involved in the All-Ireland Feile competition, congratulations on representing our county on the field. We now look forward to seeing you all back on the court for the up-coming Nationals.
Mol an óige, agus tiocfaidh siad.