Fully focused Tommy Hynes dethrones Gavin Buggy in classic county 40×20 decider
Tommy Hynes, St. Mary’s produced one of his best ever performances in the ‘small’ court to defeat the holder and former club mate Gavin Buggy, St. Josephs 21-20, 13-21, 21-8 in the GAA Handball Wexford county 40×20 senior open singles final at a packed St. Josephs Handball Centre on Friday night.
It was in some ways a slightly surprising outcome to a cracking tie, which appeared set up for the superfit Buggy to win when the explosive Hynes failed to get home in straight sets. But in the end it came down to pure handball instead of pure fitness in the third game and on that score there can be little argument about the outcome as Hynes proceeded to dominate for a victory that was as impressive as it was comprehensive.
It was Buggy who made most of the early running and taking just about every chance that came his way, he was soon building a solid lead. The rallies were fast and furious but Buggy was winning most of them, many with his trademark kill to the right corner. At 12-5 ahead few doubted he would go on to win this vital opening game as Hynes was relying on his serve to add to his score, while Buggy’s safer all round game was creating additional options which he continued to take advantage of to increase his lead. At 19-11 to Buggy this game appeared all over but then things began to go wrong for the holder. First he coughed up three ‘soft’ points which brought Hynes to 14-19 and with those three unexpectedly easy scores came a ray of hope for the frustrated Hynes. He was to say afterwards that he expected to lose even at that point but as he relaxed somewhat the scores which he found so hard to come by earlier on, suddenly began to flow.
Seven times in all Buggy served at 19 but on each occasion he failed to add to his tally and with Hynes creeping closer all the time the exchanges became hotly contested once more. The Hynes bullet serve was now hitting its mark more often and while Buggy was returning all of them, the St. Mary’s player now had a bit more time to pick his spot for the third shot of the rally. He took full advantage and at 20-20 Hynes stood over the ball for what would be his most important serve of the night and he played it like it was the last shot of his career. After facing a series of power serves up the left it was understandable that Buggy would make a slight move in that direction, but when Hynes’s hand made contact with the ball it shot down the right at such a trajectory and at such a pace that no handballer live (or dead) would have got a hand to it. Buggy didn’t either and the Hynes comeback had yielded an unlikely but deserved reward.
Stung by the loss of that opening game Buggy began the second in fine fettle and he was soon in front. Again the rallies were long and energy sapping but once more it was Buggy who appeared the happier with the savage pace. He continued to find scoring a bit easier than his opponent, mainly due to his ability to kill with either right or left, while his ability to ‘pick’ the most difficult of Hynes’s shots meant he was conceding very little in return.
Slowly but surely the pendulum continued to swing in Buggy’s favour and from the halfway mark when he led 11-6, this time, unlike the first game, he was always doing enough to get home. By comparison Hynes appeared to be tiring and as the tie reached the 90 minute mark Buggy secured the last few points to level this final on a scoreline of 21-13.
Supporters of both players got ready for the deciding game by speculating on the possible outcome, but most were of the view that Buggy rarely gets beat in the third and was unlikely to do so on this occasion. How wrong everybody was!
Hynes stated his intentions in clear and unequivocal terms right from the restart by rocketing into a 5-0 lead and from that point onward he had mental and physical control of this match. No longer was he waiting for it to happen, instead he was making it happen. Now fully concentrated on his serve and kill, he was also keeping the St.Josephs player in the rear of the court when the killshot was not on. The earlier efforts Buggy had made in returning shots and winning unlikely points appeared to be taking their toll as he missed a few easy chances, while his defensive returns from the back of the court lacked their usual authority. Buggy did get back to 5-4 but then his challenge evaporated as Hynes tagged on six points without reply to lead 11-4. The expected Buggy fight back never looked like materializing as Hynes kept a tight grip on the exchanges and his supporters roared with approval as a spectacular ‘Tomahawk Chop’ shot rolled out flat to make it 12-4. Legendary Irish-American handballer Mick McGrath rechristened the shot the ‘Tommyhawk Chop’ but whatever its name it was one of the many spectacular shots played in this terrific final.
From there to the finish Buggy battled hard to save his title but there was to be no denying Hynes his first 40×20 championship for several years as he closed it out 21-8 for a hugely impressive victory. Hynes is now the undisputed king of Wexford handball having taken the 60×30 championship in 2014 and as the holder of both titles he can look back on the past six months of his career with very fond memories.
Speaking afterwards an emotional Hynes dedicated his winner’s medal to his late father Tommy (Toddy) who passed away at Christmas.