THE second annual Tommy O’Brien tournament played at Talbot’s Inch was a huge success with the cream of Irish handball in action during the week long event. Honouring a man who gave a lifetime of service to handball at all levels in Ireland, the top exponents of the 60x30 games converged on the ’Inch to celebrate his contribution.
Over the five days of action Talbot’s Inch hosted tournaments at intermediate/senior and Open levels, while on Saturday and Sunday, juveniles from Kilkenny and Meath played a challenge match with juvenile girls from Kilkenny also putting on an exhibition.
Starting on Tuesday evening, the intermediate/senior tournament proved to be a very competitive event, with players from Kilkenny, Wexford, Tipperary and Carlow taking part. The quarter-finals were played over two nights, with the semi-finals and final completed on Friday.
Beating all before them, and playing some outstanding handball along the way, Ciáran Neary (Talbot’s Inch) and Ger Coonan (Tipperary) were deserving winners. In the decider they proved too strong for Nicky Reilly (Talbot’s Inch) and David Clifford (St Canice’s), winning 21-15, 21-13.
With the action starting early on Saturday morning, the best of Irish handball converged on Talbot’s Inch to put on some brilliant displays. First quarter-final winners were Michael ‘Ducksie’ Walsh and Tom Sheridan (Meath), who disposed of the challenge posed by the Limerick/Tipperary combination, C.J. Fitzpatrick and Fergal Collins, 21-4, 21-4.
They were quickly followed into the semi-finals by Michael Gregan (Wicklow) and Michael Finnegan (Cavan), who accounted for Gavin Buggy (Wexford) and David Maloney (Tipperary), 21-12, 21-14.
In the early afternoon matches, Barry Goff and Colin Keeling (Wexford) defeated Tommy Hynes (Wexford) and Carl Brown (Meath), 21-2, 12-21, 21-10, while Robbie McCarthy (Westmeath) and Brian O’Carroll (Meath) advanced to the semis when beating Dominic Lynch (Kerry) and Paul Mullins (Tipperary), 21-15, 21-15.
Late on Saturday evening the two semi-final matches resulted in wins for ‘Ducksie’ and Sheridan when they beat Gregan and Finnegan, 21-13, 21-11, while Goff and Keeling got the better of McCarthy and Carroll, 21-15, 21-19.
In the eagerly anticipated final on Sunday morning, the talk was whether the veterans and defending champions, ‘Ducksie’ and Sheridan would hold off the challenge of the Wexford duo, Barry Goff and Colin Keeling.
Scores were close for the first half of the opening game before the Slaneysiders opened a 19-11 lead. The Kilkenny/Meath combination rallied to 18 but failed to prevent Goff and Keeling finishing the game to seize the initiative
With ‘Ducksie’ nursing an injury sustained in the semi-final, the elder statesmen of handball made all the running in the second game and were soon well ahead, 14-4. However, the efforts of the weekend began to take their toll and they were soon railed back to 14 all before the Wexford pair closed out the match, 21-14, to add new names to the Tommy O’Brien trophy.
Thanks were extended to all the players that travelled for the weekend, to organisers, ‘Ducksie’ Walsh, Seamus Reade, Jimmy Neary and Michael Reade, the Talbot’s Inch club, the O’Brien family and to all the ladies who provided magnificent catering over the weekend. Roll on 2012.
Elsewhere on the handball scene, the Kilfane tournament reached the semi-final stages, while entries for the forthcoming county championships are with the County Secretary. The Leinster championships will be commencing in the near future. All in all busy times for handballers in Kilkenny.
Tommy O’Brien senior results (Kilkenny unless stated) Timmy Clifford/David Clifford bt Ger Anthony/Joe Walsh 2-0; Paul Lambert (Wexford)/John Ryan (Carlow) bt D.J. Carey/Seamus Kavanagh 2-0; Ciáran Neary/Ger Coonan (Tiperary) bt Johnny Bennan/Martin Lalor 2-1; Eddie Bourke/Joe Hennessy bt Nicky Reilly /William Love 2-1,
Semi-finals - Nicky Reilly/David Clifford bt Paul Lambert/John Ryan 2-0; Ciaran Neary/Ger Coonan bt Eddie Bourke/Joe Hennessy 2-0.
Final - Ciaran Neary/Ger Coonan bt Nicky Reilly/David Clifford 21-15, 21-13.