Handball: Model stars see off alley Cats
SOME of the GAA's biggest names took to the handball courts at Croke Park on Saturday as the association brought the curtain down on its 125 celebrations.
The Ultimate GAA Showdown featured the likes of 2009 Hurler of the Year Tommy Walsh, Mayo's Cora Staunton and Cork football ace Donncha O'Connor in four competitions, with Wexford and Cork emerging victorious in the men's categories, and Leinster and Connacht taking honours in the ladies.
Cork sharpshooter O'Connor teamed up with Rebel handball ace Tony Healy to take the 40x20 Showdown title where they defeated Mayo footballer Andy Moran and his handball partner, Joe McCann.
O'Connor recorded a six-point victory over Moran in the first battle of the contest, and Healy sealed the deal with a one-point win over McCann to take the title.
"It was a super day of handball and I really enjoyed it," said O'Connor.
"I think all of the GAA players got a lot from the experience and considering the high standard of play, we were delighted with the win."
In the 60x30 Showdown, top Wexford handballer Gavin Buggy teamed up with Wexford football goalkeeper Anthony Masterson and they defeated Kilkenny handball legend 'Ducksy' Walsh and hurling hero Tommy Walsh by just one ace in a thrilling final.
"It was a great day to promote handball, and to meet handballers and inter-county players from other codes that you don't usually get to mix with," said Masterson.
"I suppose it was good to win too; Gavin pulled out a big win over Ducksy and I did my bit against Tommy too; all the tipping about in the alley over the past few weeks paid off."
Masterson is going to continue to train in the handball alley until Christmas, and from there, it's full steam ahead with next year's the Model County's football ambitions.
"I genuinely think handball is great for hand-eye co-ordination and footwork, and I hope yesterday provides a boost for the game," he said.
Fellow Wexford star Mags D'Arcy was also in winning form in the ladies events and she joined up with Wicklow's Shauna Hilley as Leinster took the Ladies 40x20 Showdown title with a victory over Kerry ace Maria Daly and Tipperary footballer Mairead Morrissey.
In the Ladies 60x30 Showdown, Mayo's Cora Staunton showed she can mix it with the best handballers and paired up with Roscommon's Deirdre Donohue as they defeated Ulster's Aisling Reilly (Antrim) and Derry's Katie McAuley.
Meanwhile, Mayo's Ballaghaderreen are the King of Clubs after they recorded a seven-point victory over Coolboy (Wicklow) in the All-Ireland Open Interclub final at Abbeylara yesterday.
The destination of the 2009 title all hung in the balance until the last game, where Joe McCann defeated Johnny Willoughby to seal victory for Ballaghaderreen, who were claiming their fifth consecutive crown.