Aches and pains are put aside as Legends come out to play
Written by Antoin Ó Braoin, Rúnaí Contae
The eagerly awaited Legends Doubles Tournament is about to commence in Wexford and the six participants who are all over the age of 65 years are ready to pit their wits against each other when the action gets underway the week after next. Those taking part are Jim Bergin, St. Martins, Mick Flood, St. Mary’s, Pat Lacey, St. Josephs, Mick McGrath, Glenbrien, Ger McWilliams, Horeswood and Billy Molloy, Horeswood and all are veterans of the game with decades of involvement and commitment.
Below in alphabetical order are pen pictures of the Legends and a brief resumé of their careers.
Father of James who won an All Ireland 40×20 under 21 doubles title in 1977, he finally got his very own All Ireland winners medal when he teamed with fellow legend Ger McWilliams to capture the Emerald Masters B doubles title in 2010. A stylish and skillful handballer who is back enjoying the game again after a period out through injury. Jim was an extremely competitive handballer in his younger days and nobody ever bested the Piercestown man unless they were better on the day. A winner of several county championships throughout his career he is, like the other legends, a gentleman on and off the court.
Every club needs a man like Mick whose contribution to the game extends way beyond playing. A tireless worker who is to be found on the back wall of St. Mary’s club in Wexford town throughout the summer softball season; he is equally proactive during the current 40×20 season as he coaches both very young juvenile players as well as several of those who will be competing in the Women’s Beginners tournament. He was a fine player who had his share of success in his younger days and as a true handball gael who never seeks the limelight, he gets as much enjoyment from doing the menial tasks such as having the court open for games and giving a hand with refereeing etc. A priceless commodity for any club and pure legend in Wexford!
One of the best known people in the game, Pat has travelled around the world in pursuit of the game he loves so much. Despite ongoing injuries he is to be found in the court several times a week doing what he enjoys most – playing handball. Pat has a handballing history going back several decades, from the time he won two county senior doubles for Clonard Handball Club, in partnership with Seamus Buggy, right up the present day where he still competes at both county and All Ireland level. He was a winner of an All Ireland 60×30 Golden Masters B doubles title with current County Chairman, Tom Rossiter in 1997 and a 40×20 Emerald Masters doubles championship with Matt Leacy back in 2001. A true legend in every sense!
A man who travelled thousands of miles to take part in this competition! Well ok, so he did not come over from San Diego especially to play in this event but he does tend to make handball a central part of his annual pilgrimage and, well, this tournament sort of happened at the right time for him. A hale and hearty 77 years of age, Mick has been playing what the Yanks call ‘The Perfect Game’ for over 60 years now and although he has tasted success at all levels up to and including World Championship, it is his games with his fellow legends in Wexford that now give him most enjoyment when he comes home on extended holiday each year.
The Barntown native collected a plethora of county titles in Wexford including, five minor singles winners medals in 1954/55, a junior softball doubles in 1956, junior hardball doubles in 1957 and intermediate hardball singles in 1959 before emigrating to the United States in 1960. He went back playing handball ten years later in 1970 and proceeded to win the San Diego Open Singles title twice and Open Doubles on four occasions, before going on to add the California State Open Doubles to his collection. He was runner-up in the World Masters Singles while representing America in 1984 but two years later in Kelowna he was again in the stars and stripes colours when he took the World Masters Doubles championship with fellow Irishman Pat Kirby. The partnership went on to successfully defend their title in Melbourne in 1988 and gained a reputation as one of the best partnerships in the handball world. At 77 he is the elder statesman of this ‘competition’ but he navigates around the court as good as anyone and will enjoy this adventure. A legend in the true sense of the word!
Current President off GAA Handball Wexford and known to many of us simply as the OVERALL BOSS! His great sense of humour and loyalty to the game has endeared him to all in the sport and although now just north of three score and ten his enthusiasm remains undiminished. His All Ireland Emerald Masters B doubles win in 2010 was a fitting reward for a man who has followed handball not only from Wexford to Donegal but also to many other parts of the world. His sons and grandson also play and indeed one son Barry is the current secretary of the county juvenile committee in Wexford. A family of ‘givers’ to the sport, led by a man worthy of being called a legend in his lifetime.
Another All Ireland winner back in 2002 when in partnership with Willie Dunphy, he won the 40×20 Golden Masters B doubles title in brilliant fashion. Billy hails from the Horeswood club just outside of New Ross and has been a loyal member there for a great many years. He is renowned as a very steady player who misses very little and indeed back in 2002 when he won that coveted All Ireland medal it was his sheer consistency which played a major part in the success. Alongside former sidekick Garrett Somers, Billy won a plethora of county titles in the 40×20 court and like a few of the others he is now chomping at the bit for action having been out with joint problems in recent years. Well deserving of his place amongst these legends of the game.
All in all then a terrific gathering of wonderful people who have graced the handball world with their presence over a long period of time. In Wexford we value such people enormously and are happy to highlight their participation in this tournament. Long may they continue.
Click here for Legends 2015 Tournament