Wonderful results fo
Medals for twelve of the 21 participants
THE 2018 world handball championships were held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last month with 761 competitors from ten different counties all hoping to get their hands on a prestigious title.
The University of Minnesota was the host venue, boasting twelve spectacular 40 x 20 courts that play probably faster than any other American venue, and four purpose-built wall ball courts.
The tournament was split into two sections, with the one wall element taking place in the opening five days, and this is where Josh Kavanagh and Mark Doyle combined to pick up their first world gold medals.
Kavanagh (St. Joseph’s) and Doyle (Taghmon) faced off against Mikie Kelly (Galway) and Rory Grace (Tipperary). With the talent that was on the court, this was always going to be a close battle, but the Wexford boys have faced into world finals together before and their close understanding of each other’s game took them over the finish line on a scoreline of 21-16, 21-14.
Mark Doyle had earlier in the morning faced off against Mikie Kelly in the 15 and under one wall singles final. These boys are no strangers to each other, having competed at national level many times before, and Mark certainly was facing a battle having never been able to claim victory over Mikie before.
Having lost the first game 21-14, Mark seemed to relax and found his shots, taking Mikie score for score only to lose out 21-19.
Joshua Roche (Castlebridge) had a fantastic run in the boys’ eleven and under singles and for his reward booked his place in the world final. This was Joshua’s biggest handball challenge to date when faced off against Gavin Kelly (Galway, younger brother to Mikie) who is no stranger to competing at the highest level.
Experience was the key to this final, although Joshua’s never-say-die attitude was on display. Gavin just found the killer shots at the right time to clinch the title 21-16, 21-2.
To round off the Juvenile wall ball campaign, Conor Doyle (Taghmon) teamed up with Cian Dunning (Cork) to compete in the boys’ Under-11 doubles. Having competed in a round robin format, the Wexford/Cork pairing secured a bronze medal and the experience gained will stand to them at a later stage.
Keeping the flag flying for the adult wall ball handballers, Michael Rossiter (Ballyhogue) took a silver medal in Over60 men’s singles, having come up against a tough opponent in Jay Spooner from America.
This was Michael’s first-ever wall ball tournament and he certainly didn’t let himself down, only losing in the final 21-16, 21-17.
Seán Nolan (Kilmyshall) and John Roche (Castlebridge) took bronze in the Masters doubles, rounding off a very successful world wall ball championship for Wexford before the focus then switched to the 40 x 20 world championship.
Josh Kavanagh was a member of the official Irish team, and for the second world championship in a row the Kavanagh household had reason to celebrate. This time they relied on Josh to bring home the medals, and he did this in style.
Three times he went to the well in the University of Minnesota and came away with world titles at 15 and under one wall Doubles and 15 and under 40 x 20 singles and doubles.
As the Team Ireland representative for the age group, it was certainly a prominent showing and one GAA Handball will be extremely happy with.
It was the 40 x 20 where he excelled, sweeping the boards at 15 and under singles and doubles and being the stand-out player in the grade.
He easily won the doubles with his long-standing partner Mark Doyle, accounting for Coughlan and Grace on a 21-7, 21-8 scoreline to stamp themselves as the best pair in Ireland at their age group by some considerable distance.
Josh produced quite a brilliant display in the singles final against Mikie Kelly (Galway) when he came from 3-12 and 7-16 behind in the opening game to overwhelm his Connacht opponent and claim overall honours.
In the process he became only the second-ever Wexford player after his brother, Daniel, to claim a Juvenile singles world title. Both Josh and Mark look set to dominate the landscape of Minor handball in Ireland over the next few years.
Charlie and Joshua Roche (Castlebridge) collected silver medals in the boys’ eleven and under doubles grade. Considering that Charlie at only seven years of age was the youngest competitor at the worlds, this silver medal was a massive achievement. These young brothers have gained much experience on the biggest of stages, and the seed of world handball is sown.
Marguerite Gore has played and been a servant to handball in Wexford for a couple of decades but this was her first time to travel over the water to play. She wasn’t disappointed and certainly had a tournament to remember.
The St. Mary’s player became the first Wexford woman to win a world title since women’s grades were introduced back in Kelowna, Canada, in 1986, when she defeated Aishling Mullen (Galway) 21-20, 21-20 in a nail-biting ‘C’ singles final and this after she had, only one hour earlier, lost the 35 and over singles final after a gruelling battle lasting over two hours to Jean Kastner (U.S.A.) 21-20, 11-21, 11-5.
That unlucky defeat only served to spur her on in the ‘C’ final however and, although feeling the strain of repetitive action over a number of days and a shoulder injury picked up in her first final, she remarkably rose to the huge challenge to record an historic victory, bringing a gold and silver medal back to Wexford.
A special mention and thanks must go to Marguerite’s son, Pádraic (acting coach), who accompanied her on this memorable trip as his help was outstanding.
Galen Riordan (Ballyhogue) had been having a season for the ages so far in 2018, and he showed that his appetite for success had not dwindled over the summer months as he collected gold medals at the 23 and under grade, winning both the singles and doubles.
After wins over Ryan Lopez (U.S.A.) and Max Langmack (U.S.A.), he came up against Gabhain McCrystal from Tyrone in the final. The opening set proved crucial as Riordan snatched a 21-20 win, and from there his fitness and momentum took him quickly home 21-7 in the second set.
Galen, who is a U.C.D. graduate, joined forces with his college partner, Brian Mahon from Kilkenny, to take the doubles crown. The Wexford-Kilkenny duo were seeded number two and it was no surprise to see them up against number one seeds Michael Hedigan and Daniel Relihan (Cork) in the final.
This went the distance as the winners took the first set 21-14, but the second set went to the Rebel county men 21-20.
The Slaney-Noreside combination got home in the third set 11-4. Galen has had an incredible season, with his list of honours including a first-ever county 40 x 20 Senior singles, an All-Ireland Junior 40 x 20 singles, the men’s ‘A’ Irish Nationals title, and also the Golden Gloves competition in Belfast earlier in the season.
Adam Walsh became the second Wexford man in the history of the world championship to win the minefield that is the 40 x 20 ‘C’ singles. A stacked field of 64 set out at the University of Minnesota and Lifetime Fitness Target Centre, and the St. Joseph’s man had far too many punches for the whole field as he swept aside all challengers over the course of the gruelling four days of competition.
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