Major weekend ahead for Wexford handball
Written by Antoin Ó Braoin, Rúnaí Contae
Wexford GAA Handball faces into one of its most important weekend’s for many years this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday when a total of seven players take part in All Ireland 60×30 singles finals at several venues around the country. After enjoying one of the most successful provincial campaigns for quite a while the Slaneysiders must now get ready to take those final steps which could lead to All Ireland glory.
The task facing all of them will be very difficult as the game of handball has evolved considerably nationwide in recent years and no longer can players from so called traditionally strong counties like Wexford take victory for granted. None will do so this weekend.
Junior Singles at Na Fianna on Saturday
Wexford (Paul Lambert) v Leitrim (Martin Raftery)
Lambert was hugely impressive throughout his Leinster campaign and his win over Brendan Burke, Kilkenny in the final was perhaps his best performance in a Wexford shirt. He followed that by defeating the talented Conor McElduff, Tyrone at his home court in Loughmacrory and surely he has never been better prepared to win this long sought after junior singles title. Raftery is a progressive sort who qualified for this grade by winning the Junior B Doubles back in 2011 when ironically Wexford’s David Kenny and Diarmuid Smyth were on the receiving end. He will believe in his own ability to get this job done but the Wexfordman has been here before, having won the provincial title on four occasions and he looks to have come through the tougher side of the draw. All of that points to a Wexford win.
Junior B Singles at Talbots Inch on Friday
Wexford (Miles Connors) v Limerick (Christopher Enright)
Connors stands on the cusp of an All Ireland title following one of the most impressive campaigns seen in this grade for a while. He came through a very big Leinster field with the minimum of fuss and whenever defeat threatened he was always able to raise his game to the required level. Little is known of the Limerick player but the Treaty county are usually very strong and their representative is certain to make a big challenge for the title. It could come down to who handles the occasion best and on that basis Connors has the benefit of a long and tough campaign behind him and that should be of considerable benefit when the battle goes ‘into the trenches’.
Over 35 Singles at Hospital on Friday
Wexford (Gavin Buggy) v Kerry (Dominick Lynch)
A repeat of the recent senior singles clash which was won by Buggy in impressive fashion. And while that won’t necessarily count for a whole lot on Friday, it undoubtedly gives the Wexford player the psychological edge going into this vital game. These two have met on numerous occasions in recent years with Buggy holding a slight numerical advantage and if he produces his best one more time it is hard to see the Kerry player turn the tables at the Limerick venue. Buggy can always be guaranteed to produce his best on these occasions and despite the claims of his good friend Lynch, a second Over 35 title in succession should be on the cards for the Wexford town player.
Masters B Singles at Na Fianna on Saturday
Wexford (John Roche) v Sligo (Shane Bruen)
A step into the unknown for the Wexfordman who has chosen this year to produce the best 60×30 handball of his career. His performances throughout the Leinster championship have been consistently good and will need to be so again if this title is to be his. The long and hard provincial programme may well have conditioned Roche in a way that no amount of practice matches could and he will enter the final knowing he has the ability and the fitness to see this through. Word from the West is that Bruen has also been impressive and therefore a great final appears in prospect. A 50-50 game if ever there was one.
Silver Masters B Singles at Na Fianna on Saturday
Wexford (Robert Doyle) v Sligo (Martin Cooney)
One of the most eagerly awaited clashes of the weekend brings together two players who have lit up this championship for themselves and their supporters. The standard of play exhibited by both would not be out of place in the A championship and whoever emerges victorious will compete well at the higher level in 2015. Doyle has been a revelation since he returned from his self imposed exile of several years and he has worked hard to get himself into the kind of condition needed to win this match. Cooney too has been spoken of as a winner of this title since his triumph in the 40×20 equivalent earlier this year and that fine achievement will see him start this match as favourite to complete the double.
Golden Masters B Singles at Ballina on Saturday
Wexford (Stephen Murphy) v Mayo (George Miller)
Two players who have experienced the agony of defeat in the All Ireland series on several occasions clash at the Tipperary venue but only one will go home with their lifelong ambition realised. Murphy has recovered brilliantly from the loss of last years GMBD final and returns again for a crack at the singles title on this occasion. His form this year gives him a terrific chance of finally getting his hands on that coveted winners medal against an opponent who was beaten in the All Ireland 40×20 SMBD final earlier this year. He is strong, fit and extremely resourceful and all of Wexford will rejoice if he finds that Holy Grail on Saturday.
Diamond Masters B Singles at Cashel on Sunday
Wexford (Miley Byrne) v Tipperary (Gerry Foley)
Miley Byrne has trodden the courts of the country with little success over the years but perhaps his time has finally arrived for an overdue 60×30 success. He will face an opponent who has been given the benefit of a Tipperary venue but hopefully that will not be the factor that decided this All Ireland championship. Byrne is in good shape and if he produces his best form he should win this irrespective of the location.