Gavin Buggy repels another youthful challenger to win the famed Lyng Cup at the Wexford Credit Union county senior softball open singles championship final

Wexford Credit Union Senior Softball Singles final for the Lyng Cup. Report by Antoin Ó Braoin

Last weeks Wexford Credit Union county senior softball singles final at Castlebridge was another big occasion for handball in Wexford and a large crowd packed into the viewing gallery to see if local man Joe Devereux could topple 49 year old Gavin Buggy from St. Mary’s and become only the third player from Castlebridge to win the prestigious Lyng Cup, and the first from the club since 2017. Many distinguished faces were amongst the attendance, including Wexford’s world champions from 1970, Dick Lyng and Seamus Buggy, as well as Barntown native Mike McGrath who wore the stars and stripes of the USA when partnering the legendary Pat Kirby to world championship glory in Kelowna, Canada in 1986 and again in Melbourne, Austrailia in 1988. Also present for the occasion were previous winners of the top grade in Wexford’s premier championship, Ned Buggy, Brian Gilhooly and Tommy Hynes. 

Earlier in the season a championship that has been won by some of the greatest players in history, was further boosted by a sponsorship partnership with new title sponsor Wexford Credit Union and Amy Malone attended on their behalf.  

So could the final itself match the occasion? Well, as Joe Devereux had toppled reigning and 12 times champion Tommy Hynes in the semi final and with the 2022 All Ireland under 21 singles title also safely tucked away, his record demanded that he be viewed as a legitimate challenger to the experienced Buggy. After all, Barry Goff was just shy of his 20th birthday when he won this title back in 1998 and Brian Gilhooly was weeks away from his 21st birthday when he took the first of his titles in 1993. In the circumstances, the Matt Busby quote still on the dressing room wall at Old Trafford saying ‘if you’re good enough you’re old enough’ seemed wholly appropriate to the occasion.     

Pictured left to right are, Tony Breen, County Secretary, Dick Lyng, Gavin Buggy, Joe Devereux, Amy Malone, Wexford Credit Union and Ricky Barron, County Chairperson

Devereux ‘fronted up’ from the start of this match and more than held his own during the early exchanges, and soon we had the final we wanted. Buggy’s strategy was clear from the start; play a solid defensive game and make his opponent earn every point, while for Devereux it was a case of working hard, keeping his concentration, and, if and when chances came his way, be sure to take them.

How well the younger man succeeded in this was shown when he opened up a 13-7 lead, but when Buggy changed to an overhead cross court serve from the left, Devereux found this difficult to return safely and he coughed up four quick scores as Buggy reduced the gap to 13-11. The next few plays of this first game were going to be critical for Devereux in particular, but he rose magnificently to the challenge to play his best handball of the night and forge into a fully deserved 18-11 lead. During this period he produced a number of pin point serves from the right hand service box, which broke off the left hand wall, and were so precise that Buggy was tempted into rushing the return and conceding a few cheap scores. Devereux ‘killed’ well too during this period and for a while it looked like he had this first game safely in his grasp.        

Then calamity! We didn’t know it right then, but when Devereux missed a straight forward killshot when serving at 18-11, it proved to be so terribly costly! Four quick points brought Buggy back to within striking distance at 18-15 and when Devereux failed to add to his tally in four subsequent serves, the experienced Wexford town player swept home 21-18 to win a game he had looked certain to lose a short while earlier. Suddenly, the odds on an upset win had lenghtened considerably, because, while in normal circumstanes you would say the older man needed to win the first game against a much younger quality opponent, Buggy’s reknowned fitness and conditioning is such that no questions remained unanswered as regards his ability to go the full three games if necessary. Because of that most people were of the view that it was Devereux who needed that first game, but having lost it from a favourable position, the mental and physical challenges he now faced had risen exponentially.  

As it turned out, the loss of that opening game was to weigh heavily on Devereux throughout the second, for although the Castlebridge man tried all he knew to stay in contention, once Buggy started to pull away there was an air of inevitability about the outcome. The earlier confidence shown by Devereux was beginning to evaporate as Buggy maintained a increasingly high tempo to build a 12-6 lead, before extending this out to 19-7. During this period the St Mary’s man was relentless and nobody was left in any doubt as to the the level of performance necessary to win a championship of this stature. On a number of occasions during the second half of the second game he opted out of a straight forward killshot in favour of a well placed pass shot, in the process sending Devereux on several tours of the court at a time when tiredness was already a factor for the Castlebridge player. As usual, Buggy was showing no outward signs of fatique at all and while Devereux did rally towards the end to keep him on the court a while longer, there was little he could do to prevent the favourite claiming his third county softball singles title on a scoreline of 21-9.

The new champion took home the Billy Lyng Cup, which was donated to Wexford Handball Board by the Lyng family from Ballyanne back in 1989, having earlier been awarded to winners of the National Handball League. The cup honours the memory of a man who passed away in 1970 and fittingly it was presented to the winner by his brother, the great Dick Lyng. 

In summary, Joe Devereux took the biggest softball scalp of all, Tommy Hynes, in the semi final and showed enough in the final to suggest that his day will eventually come. Most of those who win this title have to lose at least one first and he can bank this experience for the next time he reaches this stage. He could hardly have faced a tougher opponent in his maiden final, but he now has a far better idea of what it will take to win this championship. 

Sometimes we think we have seen it all with Gavin Buggy! Multiple county, provincial, national and world titles have been won throughout a stellar career spanning over 35 years, but then he goes and does it one more time! His joy at winning the Lyng Cup again speaks to the value he places on winning the Wexford championship and as long as he retains that type of hunger and desire, there will be no easy pathway to victory for up and coming successors.

County PRO Cian Cassidy live streaming at the final
A section of the crowd at the final.