Anticipation is high in Wexford as all the big guns line up for the start
Court chatter with Antoin Ó Braoin
Its been a while coming but at last all of the top handballers in Wexford are lining up at the same time in the same competition. Back in the day when Wexford dominated nationally at senior level it was often said that winning in Wexford was harder than winning outside of the county and while things are a bit different now due to the growth of the game as well as the introduction of the different codes etc, there is no doubt that having a vibrant senior championship puts the sport on a higher pedestal in the eyes of everyone.
Winning will still be extremely hard but when Gavin Buggy, Tommy Hynes, Barry Goff, Daniel Kavanagh, Keith Armstrong, Paul Lambert, Peter Hughes and Galen Riordan face off it will be business as usual for these perennial achievers, while the rest of us can sit back and enjoy what is certain to be one of the most hotly contested championships in the county for many a long year. The league style format will add to the excitement as just like the other grades in the 2018 40×20 championship the senior will be run on a league basis and with two groups of four, the first task for all will be to get through to the semi finals which take place in January.
The field is dominated by the three best players in the county over a long period of years; title holder Gavin Buggy who will again prove very difficult to dethrone, recently returned and so impressive winner of the 60×30 championship Barry Goff and multiple senior winner Tommy Hynes, and the question on everybody’s lips is how much longer can these three extraordinary athletes stay ahead of the chasing pack.
That pack is led by Daniel Kavanagh who finished runner up to Buggy in last years final, having looked for a while like he would become the youngest ever winner on that occasion. He then went on to lose the 60×30 decider to Goff, but along the way he knocked out Buggy and is clearly closing fast on those who are ahead of him.
Keith Armstrong is another live contender who has captured a significant number of national titles in recent years. He has the game to shake up this field and cannot be ruled out for a second. With Hynes and Kavanagh both in his group he will have a hard task to make the the semi finals but if he comes through that he will be a serious contender for whoever emerges to face him from the other group.
Paul Lambert is back again following a break from the sport but this multi talented individual was touted as a certain future winner of the senior championship a few short years ago and if he hits the ground running his group games against Buggy and Goff will be intriguing.
Peter Hughes is one of the cleverest players around and can, as a measure of his capabilities, point to a win over Buggy in the not too distant past. The Ballyhogue man will be an outsider in this field but on his day he is a very talented player who will cause problems for everyone.
Hughes clubmate Galen Riordan makes up the eight man filed and if this totally ambidextrous handballer has not gone backwards during his recent time in the USA then his capabilities dictate that he not be ruled out of contention.
All in all then a terrific championship looks in store and whoever emerges to occupy the winners rostrum in January will fully deserve the accolade of being named the best player in the county, in the very best traditions of Wexford handball.