Last Saturday was a fantastic day for handball in the County when we hosted the 2019 Softball Irish Nationals. Great credit must go to the seven host clubs, Ballymitty, Castlebridge, Coolgreany, Kilmyshall, St Marys, Taghmon and Templeudigan, who put in a huge effort to ensure that everyone came away with very positive things to say about the alleys themselves, the hospitality and the all round organisation of this National event.
Our local players were up against players from all four provinces in their quest for a National title. The home advantage certainly bore fruit with Wexford wins in Mens A, Mens C, Masters B and Girls U13 and Under.
The Mens Open Final finished off proceedings in Castlebridge when Martin Mulkerrins from Galway came up against our own Gavin Buggy. Gavin was coming off the back of two tough games earlier in the day, winning both his Quarter and Semi Final in tie breaks. In contrast Martin was not taken to a tie-break in any of his matches, beating Softball legend Eoin Kennedy from Dublin 15-11, 15-11 in the Semi- Final. The easier passage held Martin in good stead in the Final which he took 15-10, 15-4.
In Mens A, playing in their home court of St Marys, Paul Lambert and Paddy Haughton had a brilliant win against the talented Murphy brothers, Evan and Shane, from Limerick. Evan and Shane had looked impressive in their semi-final win over the other St Marys pair of Adam Walsh and Matthew Hynes, but Paul and Paddy were in top form winning the first game 15-6. There were a few anxious moments in the second game before the lads closed out the match on a scoreline of 15-7.
Shane Birney and Thomas Moore from Castlebridge took the Mens C title, defeating the Tipperary pair of Aiden O’Flaherty and Kevin Timmons in the Final. This was a ding dong battle, played in Templeudigan, where the Wexford pair took the first game 15-9, only to lose the second game by the same score. They regrouped for the tie-break and ran out winners on a 11-1 scoreline.
In Ballymitty it was an All Wexford affair in the Masters B Final, with James Stanners and Alan O’Neill combining to defeat Davis Stanners and Robert Byrne.
In Silver Masters Mick and Tommy Armstrong, playing at home in Kilmyshall, reached the Final only to lose out to Conor O’Brien and Sean Ryan from Offaly on a scoreline of 15-8, 15-9.
In the Juvenile grades, Jodie Keeling from St Josephs partnered Farrah Ryan from Carlow in the Girls U13 and Under competition, and they combined really well to take the National title, defeating Hannah Grace and Christine Percy from Tipperary.
Our Boys U17 and Under pairing of Mark Doyle and Dean O’Neill reached the Final following a thrilling semi-final win over the Castlebridge pair of Joe Devereux and David Doyle. In the Final they came up against the fancied Kilkenny pairing of Kyle Dunne and Billy O’Neill who took the title back across the border!
We also had Plate Winners in the following grades, Mens Open, Barry Goff, who beat Brian Mahon, Kilkenny, Mens A, Malachy Whelan & David Kenny (Castlebridge) who defeated Ollie Ryan and Daniel Fenlon from Carlow and Masters B, Sean Nolan with his partner Brian Reilly from Clare, who defeated William Murphy and John Morrissey from Wexford…
Congratulations to all who won titles or made Finals, and to everyone else who took part. Next up is Feile Softball 2019 which Wexford is also hosting. It takes place on Sunday 25th August. More about that nearer the event.