Season to remember for Louth handball
IT has been a season to remember for Louth Handball, which is still alive and well in the O Raghallaigh's club.
The county has had many many exponents of the game over the years and Sean Devlin from Salterstown continued that tradition in fine style this summer.
Last year Sean realised his ambitions when he won his first All Ireland medal in 40x20 competition. He won many Leinster titles in the past but until last year the All Irelands eluded him. Having secured last years title in the small alley (40x20), Sean set his sights solely on the coveted and original, big alley title. The big alley, 60x30ft or softball championship as it is known, is the original style of handball played throughout Ireland.
Early this summer Sean quite confidently won the Leinster title in his grade, which is the Diamond Masters B competition. Again, as in years gone by, Sean progressed through the qualifiers of the All Irelands, beating his counterparts in the quarter-finals and semi-finals. This brought Sean to the penultimate competition.
The All Ireland 60x30 softball finals, which were held in Garryhill Co. Carlow. Sean was to face a competent opponent in Tipperary's Eamon Spillane, an old hand at the sport and a diligent competitor.
In a relatively comfortable first game Sean beat his opponent by a score line of 21 points to 13. The competition being the best of three games to 21, the Tipperary man was not going to lie down and allow Sean an easy run in the second game. Sean led the second game for the majority of the match but Eamon put up a mighty fight and kept Sean within his grasp throughout.
In a game that lasted almost an hour Sean dug deep and kept Eamon at arms length playing some beautiful serves down Eamon's weaker lift hand side which saw Sean edge ahead with confidence. With a small following from Louth to encourage Sean he came to realise his long time ambitions when 50 minutes into the game he pulled clear and beat the Tipperary man 21-17. To a rapturous applause from the away supporters Sean secured his first 60x30 softball All Ireland championship medal.
O'Raghallaighs clubmen secured a number of titles throughout this season representing both club and county. Joe Heslin and partner Sean Devlin won a 60x30 doubles Leinster title in July but lost out in their All Ireland quarter final attempt. Sean and Ben Devlin won 60x30 singles Leinster titles comfortably in their respective grades. Both progressed through their All Ireland qualifiers and in recent weeks Sean won his second All Ireland title. Unfortunately his grandson Ben lost out his bid in a close contest, securing a runners up medal.
Young Ben also won a National title early in the summer in Breffny House Co. Mayo at the National One-wall competition. Ben lost his first round game to the boy who won the overall title but due to his first round exit he qualified for the plate competition which he won outright progressing through 4 stages to victory.
Last Saturday week saw the club play host to our first one-wall open competition with as many as 24 people taking part from four different GAA clubs from around Louth.
The day was a runaway success and all who attended had nothing but praise for the welcome they received and the efficient way in which the tournament was run.
The competition was won by O'raghallaighs men John Boyle and his partner Cathal McGinty. It would be our intention to make this an annual tournament.