Wicklow's handball heroes at the ready
Garden County posse set to take on the world
CLOSE TO 40 Wicklow handballers are days away from taking part in the World Championships 2012 in Citywest in Dublin.
A total of 32 of those handballers hail from the Coolboy club with the remaining contestants coming from the Arklow Handball club and each and every one of them are travelling to the competition to do the Garden County proud.
Leading the pack is Coolboy handball magician Michael Gregan who has put in months and months of training for this competition in a bid to lift the world title.
Night after night he's travelled the roads to play practice games or take part in competitions. Lonely night after night he could be found toiling away in the handball alley in Coolboy, honing his skill, quickening his movements, sharpening his reactions and all the while fully aware of the task that faced him, fully familiar with the giants of the game against whom he would find himself competing against come October.
Gregan takes part in the Men's Open competition, the ultimate level for men in the world. In this pool of awesome handball talent you can find the lethal Paul Brady from Cavan, America's number two, Naty Alverdo, Robbie McCarthy and Brian Carroll among others but the Coolboy native says that training has been going very well and that he feels in the best shape of his life.
"Training has been going good, absolutely brilliant actually. I've never been as fit and strong. That's down to training and not drinking and carrying on.
"Drink is a terrible thing especially for anyone playing sport. You think it doesn't harm you, you say you'll have a few pints and you'll be alright but you won't be alright.
"I've been training four or five nights a week and I'm ready for the start on Thursday with the International Cup against America," he said.
The International Cup is a special tournament between the Irish and the Americans that takes place at Citywest on Thursday night.
Michael is a part of the Irish team so he will be based in Dublin for the duration of the tournament. His Wicklow colleagues however will have to make their own arrangements and for most that will entail travelling up and down to Citywest during the competition.
Joining Michael from coolboy are several major names within world handball.
Shauna Hilley, now a student in Tralee has brought home countless honours to the small village over the years since she was a child.
Shauna has claimed world titles at different levels and goes into battle in the lady's 23 and under category and is a real source of hope for the Garden County.
One of several Willoughby brothers, Jerome Willoughby, takes part in the competition in the men's A grade and is fancied to progress well in the competition.
Another of the Gregan family, James, a leading member of the Coolboy Intermediate football team, takes part in the Men's B competition and has been hard at work in the ball alley for the last number of months as well as dividing his time for the football.
Another strong contender for a title is Patricia Doyle who goes in the Women's A grade.
It is a remarkable achievement for such a small village of Coolboy to have created such an interest in handfball and to have kept it going through all the changes and through all the years.
Michael Gregan is advising anybody with a few spare hours to make the short journey to Dublin to witness what should be a wonderful event where all the best handballers from all over the world will descend upon the Irish capital to show their stuff and to attempt to make the dream come true of bring home a world title.
The finals of the tournament will take place next Tuesday prior to the commencement of the doubles section.
The Coolboy handball club would like to express their sincere thanks to the following people - to Darren and Orla Kavanagh, to Philip Rothwell, to Denis Kinsella and to Lilly Lillis for all their help and support towards the Coolboy handball club over the years and especially in the run up to the 2012 World Championships in Citywest in Dublin.
To all the competitors from Wicklow we wish them the very best of luck.