A good start not enough as Gavin Buggy and Barry McWilliams lose out
Written by Antoin Ó Braoin Rúnaí Contae
A good start is half the battle! What exactly does that age old saying mean when it comes to a handball match? I suppose you could say its true if it means you win the first half of the game i.e. half the battle. But of course only winning half of the battle could mean you lose the ‘war’ and that is precisely what happened to Gavin Buggy and Barry McWilliams, Wexford at Crinkle on Friday evening where after a bright start in all three games they were eventually beaten by Vinny Moran and Paul Flynn, Mayo in the GAA Handball All Ireland 60×30 35 and Over A Doubles final.
The Wexford players went into this final as slight underdogs against the 2013 champions but they had 10 points on the scoreboard before Mayo opened their account in the first game. The champions then settled into the pace of the game and began pulling back the deficit in impressive fashion. Nine of those points were retrieved in one go on their first pair of serves and while Wexford did add another score to lead 11-9 it was Moran and Flynn who forged ahead by 18-11 to set themselves up to win the opening game. Buggy and McWilliams rallied near the end to make it 14-18 but it was the more balanced Westerners who closed it out with three points on the trot for a 21-14 win.
Whether it was a more determined Wexford or a slightly complacent Mayo who emerged for the second game is hard to say but in any event it was the Slaneysiders who again played all the handball in the early stages to lead 10-1. Buggy was flattening balls from all over the court and aided and abetted by McWilliams they continued to dominate proceedings until the scoreline stood 17-1 in their favour. Moran and Flynn did finally get a bit of traction in this game to garner enough scores to make it interesting but after pulling it back to 19-13 it was Buggy and McWilliams who got the last two points for a 21-14 victory.
With the tie now finely balanced it was again the Wexfordmen who set the pace in the third as they ended their first serves 5-0 in front. At this stage the rallies were fast and furious and the better balanced Moran and Flynn were asking serious questions of Buggy in particular, as he took on most of the workload. Despite that he was proving equal to the task as he and McWilliams extended the score to 8-3 before going 12-4 and then 13-7 in front. Notwithstanding that advantage however, given what was happening on court, it never looked a match winning lead and sure enough it wasn’t!
With Flynn becoming more and more influential in the game Mayo continued to battle and five big points in a row brought them back to 13-12. They levelled at 14-14 and from there to the finish a terrific handball match took place as scores were hard to come by on both sides. It was Flynn though who proved the difference in those closing stages as he was the one who was finishing the rallies with either deadly ‘kills’ or well places passing shots to both sides of the court. Moran too was ending the game strongly and from 18-17 in front it was the reigning champions who conjured up the winning shots for a well deserved 21-17 win.
For Buggy and McWilliams it was a heartbreaking end to a magnificent handball match and while they may feel they let a big chance slip, few could argue with the final outcome. The Buggy strategy of playing practically every ball in this match is one that usually ends in failure and against two such fine players as Moran and Flynn a sharing of the workload would have been more advisable, even if the outcome were to remain the same.