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Handball is a world-beater

HANDBALL'S coming home. The Citywest Hotel is staging the carnival.

IT BEGINS this Thursday. It's on for 11 days. It is being run in association with Failte Ireland.

Everybody is welcome. Admission starts at only a tenner a day. A fiver for kids.

Good value to see the 2012 World Handball Championships. Officials are hoping that the event will help to maintain the sport's renaissance.

Time was when handball was the centre of the universe in every town and village in Ireland. Sadly, many of those old alleys are now withered and overgrown. Some are gone completely.

But the comeback is on. There are new ball walls being built in so many clubs around Dublin. St Mark's in Tallaght recently formed a handball section.

Handball has been thriving at St Brigid's for years. Eoin Kennedy is a superstar. One of the best Dubs of all time. Eoin still hears stories of the legendary Mick Dunne and his weekly handball programme on RTé television. Icons like Joey Maher, Dick Lyng and Pat Kirby.

Mick would marvel at what's happening in Citywest this week. Over 20 courts have been built in a spectacular arena with magnificent theatre-style seating.


"It is going to be some spectacle," promises GAA Handball's CEO, Chris Curran. "It's a wonderful chance for people to experience a world championship event. They will get to see the best the sport has to offer in terms of speed, skill and endurance, not to mention drama."

Eoin Kennedy is up there with the best of them, seeded number 10. That priceless piece of Cavan crystal, Paul Brady, is the defending champion and number one seed. The leading lady is Antrim's top ace, Fiona Shannon.

Some 2,000 players will be in action and 30 represented; more than 3,000 matches will take place.

The travelling Willoughy's will be busy, on court and on stage. The six handballing brothers are also noted musicians. They will give a concert at Citywest next Saturday.

But the music to the ears that most pleases Chris Curran and company is that the popularity of handball is soaring.

Nine years ago when the World Championships were last held here, just over 1,000 players took part. That figure has now doubled.

"We expect to see over 4,000 people come through the doors at Citywest every day during the championships, so everybody is excited about that," adds Chris.