Thursday, October 3, 2013

Handball Article for Sligo G.A.A final match programme Sunday 13th October

                                      Aoife Quinn historic breakthough in 2013

Gerry Coleman World handball haul

                                  Sligo handball legend Paddy Walsh

The Sligo handball season began slowly but picked up great momentum the longer it went on.  Nobody could have envisaged a number of young and seasoned stars reaching dizzying heights in handball this year, writes Michael McGee.

Quinn’s breakthough

Aoife Quinn from the Castleconnor club grabbed the headlines with a brilliant display in the O’Neill’s Sponsored 40 x 20 Nationals held in Clare.  Last April, Aoife made history when she became the first player to win a National title (Girls 15 & Under) at Juvenile level in over 20 years.  The Castleconnor club starlet has been knocking on the door in the last couple of seasons and finally made the historic breakthrough with a dazzling display. Quinn was on fire all weekend and reached the final with impressive displays. In the final she came up against Laois’s Avril Deegan. Quinn was unstoppable right from the “get go”. Deegan could not handle Quinn’s accurate serving as the Sligo star racked up scores taking game one by 15-6.  The second game Quinn was pushed all the way but she stayed strong and in one of her best performances to date she came through in a thrilling finish to capture the national handball title by 15-12.  Aoife is coached by her father Oisin and already it is proving a formidable winning formula. Quinn was also a member of the winning Connacht girls team of 10 that won the national title in 2011 and gained great experience. Quinn could add another title to her nationals crown when she teams up with club mate Marianna Foody .  The duo take on the Leinster Colleges  Champions in the Girls Junior doubles All-Ireland Colleges 60 x 30 semi-finals next Saturday.  Quinn looks set for a very bright future in handball and future success is imminent.

Coleman’s World medal haul

In August further news came filtering through of Gerry Coleman’s sensational achievements in the World Police & Fire games held in Belfast in early August, winning 3 World handball medals (5 in total).  Coleman a member of the Curry G.A.A Club excelled in the games in 3 different sporting disciplines.  Coleman who works as a Nursing Officer in Loughlan House in Cavan faced stiff competition with players from Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Northern Ireland, U.S.A, & Ireland all taking part in a strong International field. Unbelievably Coleman exceeded all expectations even by his own high standards when he won a Bronze medal in the Over 40’s One-Wall, Bronze in the 40 x 20 Four Wall event, Silver in the Over 40’s doubles with L.A.P.D. Officer Oscan DeSilva.  Not content with the handball medals Coleman also won a Bronze with the Fire Service G.A.A Over-35 team and also a silver medal in the dragon boat team of 10.  An outstanding achievement for the Curry club man.

Paddy Walsh Sligo handball legend

It was going to be hard to top that for a Sligo handball player but one man did just that on September 14th last.  That man is the legendary Paddy Walsh from the St. Mary’s handball club.  Walsh went all the way to win his 29th All-Ireland handball title in a glorious career. The Sligo sporting star has been winning All-Ireland handball titles since 1974.  Paddy made the long journey to Tuamgraney in Co Clare to take on Cork’s Pat O’Brien in the final of the Over 70’s All-Ireland 60 x 30 final. O’Brien had beaten our man in the All-Ireland 40 x 20 final last April.  Walsh the Sligo handball warrior this time was ready and went into battle in confident mood. 
As the game unfolded Walsh had a whirlwind start going into a commanding 18-1 lead in the final and took that first game by 21-6. In the 2nd it was level at 13-13 and yet again Walsh weaved his magic to run out a comfortable winner in the end by 21-13. The return trip to Sligo must have one of the shortest and the sweetest ever in Paddy Walsh’s distinguished career.  I believe the Clare banner roar could be heard in Collooney later that evening.
 At 73 years of age it’s worth thinking for a few moments what this man has achieved in a lifelong association to Sligo G.A.A. in the last 6 decades.   For many years the inspirational Walsh represented Sligo at senior level in handball.
Paddy  was also an accomplished Gaelic Foootball player and played on the Sligo Senior G.A.A teams in the sixty’s and won six County Senior club titles with Collooney/Ballisodare and 1 with St. Mary’s to his credit. After excelling on the G.A.A fields he turned his attentions to the small ball game of handball with amazing results.  Shortly afterwards Walsh won his first All-Ireland title back in 1974 with partner Eamonn Hannon in Croke Park.  He had to wait until 1982 for his next title with the Masters A singles coming to Sligo.
In the 1990’s & 2000’s he racked up an astonishing 27 All-Ireland singles & doubles titles with partners (Mick Kelly & Padraig Maye) .  In one year alone Paddy won 4  All-Ireland  titles in both 60 x 30 & the 40 x 20 handball courts an astonishing achievement.

What is even more amazing about Paddy Walsh’s achievements he also had two hip operations in 2004 & 2005 and has come back to his brilliant best since then. 

Paddy was honoured at the G.A.A Handball All-Stars banquet in Croke Park where he received the “Special Achievement Award” from the then Irish Handball President Tony Hannon in 2009.

The affable player also trains the Juvenile handball players in Collooney and has already coached many young players to numerous Connacht handball titles and takes great pride in his young stars achievements. He is a vital team player to the Collooney handball club fundraising project for the 40 x 20 handball court currently in progress. He has worked vigorously to make sure the project will be a great success and was one of the first players to suggest a 40 x 20 court to be built in Collooney back in 2007.  He has undertaken fundraising for the Collooney handball court from as far away as America. Because of this and his unstinting work in the Collooney handball club he was nominated to deliver the commencement notice to Sligo County Council for the new handball court.  Just last Thursday (October 10th) Walsh received a Civic Reception from the Sligo Lord Mayor Marcella McGarry for his outstanding achievements in handball. His exploits on the handball courts all over Ireland are legendary. Walsh has already left an indelible mark on Sligo handball and he will go down in history as Sligo’s greatest ever handball player. Today we applaud all 3 stars (Aoife Quinn, Gerry Coleman & Paddy Walsh) for their extraordinary feats on the handball courts all over Ireland in 2013, with breathtaking results in the Sligo colours. 

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