World cham­pion Ea­monn en­joyed a dream sea­son

Bray People - - GARDEN COUNTY GAA SPORTS STARS AWARDS 2012 - EA­MONN RICE HAND­BALL

“REALLY HON­OURED,” was how Ea­monn Rice de­scribed his feel­ings on pick­ing up the Garden County GAA Sports Stars award for hand­ball.

The 53-year-old world cham­pion has had a su­perb year that was made all the more spe­cial by the fact that he was struck by in­jury in 2011 which kept him away from the courts al­to­gether.

“I've had a very good year,” said Ea­monn, “I won a world ti­tle with Ned Kealy in the dou­ble over-45 B di­vi­sion. I was out in­jured last year and only got back on the court in Jan­uary. Then I went out to Aus­tralia to take part in the cham­pi­onships out there and I won a na­tional ti­tle out there in June and that set me up for the worlds with Ned. I'm flab­ber­gasted to be hon­est that I've won this award. It was the last thing on my mind and I'm really hon­oured,” he added grate­fully.

Ea­monn's re­la­tion­ship with hand­ball be­gan as a child and then he gave it up for many years but af­ter mov­ing to Wicklow 18 years ago he got back on the horse so to speak by join­ing the Ark­low club and en­dur­ing many “tough years” as he him­self de­scribes.

“It's like any­thing; you lose more games than you win. It's really only in the last three or four years that I've been suc­cess­ful. Three years ago I had a great year when I won an All-Ire­land dou­bles with Drew Keogh, I was beaten in the sin­gles fi­nal and I won an Ir­ish na­tional ti­tle as well. All th­ese things tend to come to­gether. I won those af­ter a lot of bar­ren years,” he added.

The world ti­tle this year holds a spe­cial place in Ea­monn's heart. Two gru­elling days of com­pe­ti­tion saw him­self and Ned Kealy lift the ti­tle. The pair still have trou­ble be­liev­ing that they won when they were left fac­ing an al­most im­pos­si­ble task in one game when they were 10-5 down in a tie-break.

“Phys­i­cally the worlds weren't that bad but men- tally it was very tough. We were look­ing at 10-5 down and the other lads, for some un­known rea­son, took a time-out. And then we went on to win,” he said.

To the fu­ture then and Ea­monn is op­ti­mistic about hand­ball in Wicklow. Mem­ber­ship of the Ark­low club has in­creased he says and ma­jor work has taken place on the court on Vale Road. One thing they are lack­ing is vol­un­teers to look af­ter the ju­ve­niles but other than that hand­ball in Ark­low has “plenty of po­ten­tial,” he says.

Ea­monn Rice

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