Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sligo Handball team ready for the World Handball Championships
Sligo Handball team for World handball championships:
 back row left to right Oisin Quinn, Shane Bruen, Francis McCann, Gavin Cawley
front row: Odhran Quinn, Fergus O' Donovan General Manager Radisson Blu Hotel Sligo, Peter Chambers Chairman Sligo Handball Board and Aoife Quinn

The Mighty Quinns a  family affair: Aoife, Oisin & Odhran
Ready to take on the world: Aoife, Oisin & Odhran Quinn

Handball is homeward bound

A select few will become champions for others broken hearts, shattered dreams but  lifelong  memories all rolled into one electrifying showcase of handball action at its very best and maybe,  just maybe a world handball champion will emerge from Sligo writes, Michael McGee.

“Each day I live I want to be a day to give the best of me.  I’m only one but not alone my finest day is yet unknown.” Words from a famous Whitney Houston song and it will have much retentiveness for all Irish handball players taking part in the World handball championships
Ireland will host the World handball championships from October 11th - 21st in the Citywest Hotel Dublin.  In a specially constructed handball arena built in the convention centre will comprise of 13 40×20 Four Wall Courts and 8 One Wall Courts

 Overall there will be 2000 competitors from 33 countries ranging in age from Boys/Girls U-11 to Over 80’s in 128 grades of four wall & one-wall handball competitions.  Ireland has hosted the event on 3 previous occasions 1970, 1994 & 2003. In 1970 the new National Handball 60  x 30 Centre was built for the occasion. In that final seen Clare’s Pat Kirby defeat Louth’s Joey Maher (the reigning champion in Toronto 1967) who was representing Canada at the time in the Men’s Open final. The legendary duo Kirby & Maher both went onto win 3 World handball titles respectively. Twenty four years later in 1994 the Waterford Crystal sponsored world championships returned and were held in Clare, Dublin, Kildare and Meath venues.  A total of 650 players from 10 countries took part in 39 events and Irish players won 20 titles.

The 2003 Men’s Open final which was an All-Irish affair will be best remembered when Cork’s Tony Healy generously gave all his time outs to Cavan’s Paul Brady who sustained an injury in the second game.  After receiving treatment Brady returned to the fray. Healy took that 2nd game. Brady got more treatment during the 5 minute break and he came back to win the tie breaker and world title.  Brady acknowledged Healy’s great sportsmanship in his victory speech immediately afterwards saying “if I could give half the trophy to Tony I would.”  Healy received a special presentation and a standing ovation at the annual handball awards for his outstanding sportsmanship later that year.

 Brady has gone on to become a legend in Irish Handball having dominated Irish, Canadian, U.S. & World handball. The 33 year-old Cavan star will be aiming for an unprecedented 4th World handball title in a row. Brady has won seven Irish Nationals, seven U.S. National titles, a record 8 All-Ireland singles & 7 doubles titles in an astonishing career. Considering the World championships take place every 3 years the Breffni man is the no.1 player for the past nine years and remained top of the pile. He has proven unbeatable in all that time.  Few would bet against Brady winning a remarkable 4th title.  Antrim’s Fiona Shannon is also aiming for the same equivalent in the ladies open. There will be live TV coverage from Wednesday 17th October onwards to the final stages.

 In 2003 a thousand players entered. A short nine years has seen huge strides in the sport and  this figure has doubled demonstrating the universal appeal of handball.  GAA Handball is a member of the International Federation called (WWBA) World Wall Ball Association and has teamed up with the World Handball Council and the CIJB (European & South American Associations). 

 Next year handball will be a demonstration sport in the World games in Cali Columbia.  Fifty nations will be needed to advance the games and the real prospect of participation in the next Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro 2016. The question is; when and not if the national sport of GAA handball will become a reality as an Olympic sport. In the last World championships in Portland Oregan in 2009 Ireland came home with 35 titles.  I expect this to be greatly increased and pass the half century mark.

Already our own John Cawley a National School teacher in the Holy Family National School in Tubbercurry is advancing this cause. Last May he brought a number of sixth class pupils to Biecz in Southern Poland to demonstrate handball to the pupils there. Shortly the Polish School will pay a return visit to Tubbercurry and no doubt with John’s efforts Poland will soon be added as a member of the handball family. Fr. Martin Jennings the well known handball Priest is now the P.P in Tubbercurry and it is expected handball will reach new levels with these people involved.  

Sligo players taking part will be Shane Bruen, Gerry Coleman Gavin Cawley Men’s C a grade which has a staggering 200 competitors. Francis McCann Golden Masters A, Martin Cooney Silver Masters B, Odhran Quinn Boys U-13, Aoife Quinn Girls U-15, and Oisin Quinn Silver Masters.  Bruen, McCann, Cooney & Aoife Quinn all reached All-Ireland finals this year and who knows any of our players may win the biggest prize of the lot.   Maybe, just maybe Sligo will be celebrating a first in G.A.A circles with a World champion.  What a prospect that would be. Sligo handball hearts are already beating strongly. Let the championships begin. 








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