Defiant Hynes battles back to claim 10th senior singles title
Senior Open Singles final report by AOB
Tommy Hynes wrote himself into the annuals of Wexford handball history at a packed Castlebridge last night when he saw off a massive challenge from Keith Armstrong to win a record 10th county 60×30 senior open singles title on a scoreline of 18-21, 21-18, 21-13.
Such an outcome had looked extremely unlikely after the outstanding Armstrong came from behind to take a fiercely fought first game 21-18 and when he pulled away from the midway point of the second to lead 16-9 a huge upset appeared on the cards. There had been no fluke about the way the game had gone to that point as the 20 year old Armstrong had worked his socks off to get into a winning position, winning rally after rally through sheer determination and a very effective skill set.
But winning a senior title (or any title) in the county is very difficult and history has taught us that only the very best win senior singles titles in Wexford. History has also shown that a particular era will end only when the title is wrested from a champions grasp. John Fleming, Barry Goff, Brian Gilhooley and Tommy Hynes had to do this themselves to become champions and in no case was it delivered to them on a platter. When Armstrong led 16-9 in the second game last night, and with the first game safely banked, he was maintaining that proud tradition in every sense. He was taking the title away from a nine times champion and doing it in a manner commensurate with what had been done in the past. That he did’ent see it through had little to do with any failure on his part, rather it was down to a proud opponent simply refusing to bend to the almost inevitable handing on of the baton.
Almost but not quite! Just as the vocal attendance got ready to see a new champion crowned Hynes said no, not yet. And from there to the finish of a simply absorbing second game the 46 year old strained every sinew as he sought to repel a 20 year old who was born only a few months before Hynes won his first senior title. A run of flat kills closed the gap and as the game entered its second hour Hynes got the vital scores to level the tie.
The third was always going to be difficult for the young Kilmyshall star but he came out fighting to take an early lead. He stayed in contention up to the midway point before the massive physical effort took its toll and his returns from the back of the court got shorter. When they did Hynes pounced on everything to flat roll ball after ball and you could sense that at last, he had weathered one of his greatest storms. The final scoreline of 21-13 was in no way reflective of what had gone before but full credit to the magnificent Hynes for his ability to go for the jugular at the first scent of weakness, even though he own energy levels had to be running close to empty.
Armstrong may well see this as an opportunity lost but any notion that he bottled it or threw it away would be a total misrepresentation of what took place in this match. The young Kilmyshall player never flinched throughout a pulsating encounter and on another day those efforts would be enough for him to join that elite band of handballers who have won the Wexford senior softball singles championship. Only Hynes at his defiant best could have deprived him of that accolade. How long can he go on?
The Willie Lyng Memorial Cup is adorned with many great names of Wexford handball champions and on the evidence of last night another new name and another new era cannot be far away.