Preview 1 – county senior open singles

Senior Open Singles semi finals

Gavin Buggy (St. Josephs) v Keith Armstrong (Kilmyshal), Tommy Hynes (St. Mary’s) v Galen Riordan (Ballyhogue)

An intriguing group stage of the senior championship has produced a fascinating semi final lineup that is certain to add another chapter to the glorious history of Wexford handball writes AOB.

When both Gavin Buggy and Tommy Hynes fell at the semi final stage of last years 40×20 competition and Galen Riordan saw off Daniel Kavanagh to end the near 40 year Ballyanne, Castlebridge, St. Josephs and St. Mary’s domination of our senior championship, it felt like the end of an era in more ways than one. In addition to the arrival of a new club on the senior championship roll of honour list of winners, it also raised the prospect of new names replacing the likes of Buggy and Hynes who had hoovered up many of those titles during that period.  The young guns were certainly lining up to take over, for in addition to the brilliant Riordan who excelled at both county and national level in both 2017 and 2018, there was also Daniel Kavanagh and Keith Armstrong waiting in the wings with bulging cv’s to support their case. The question on everybody’s lips as the 2019 version got underway was, did 2018 represent a blip or were Buggy and Hynes really ready to abdicate? If the group stages of this year’s championship are anything to go by, the most decorated duo in Wexford handball are saying an emphatic no!

Gavin Buggy topped the 9-man group with no defeats and, perhaps significantly, was only brought to the third game by fellow veterans Tommy Hynes and Barry Goff. His legendary fitness as he stands on the brink of 45 will not let him down and his determination to win again is clear to all.

Tommy Hynes finished the group in second place and in this mood is a clear and present danger to all. In addition to his awesome power and ‘killing’ ability, his fitness and conditioning is truly remarkable for a man of 47 years of age. He blew Galen Riordan away in the league stages and will fancy his chances of doing so again in the semi final.

Galen Riordan carried the pressure of defending champion into this years campaign and with such a target on his back it was almost inevitable that he would falter slightly. Nonetheless he has arrived safely in the same knockout stages where he really blossomed last year and while he buckled under Hynes a few weeks ago, he will view their semi final clash as a quick opportunity to extract retribution.

Keith Armstrong returned to handball this year after a short sabbatical and has quietly amassed sufficient points to reach the last four. This hugely promising youngster came up just short in the 60×30 senior final back in July and is a senior champion in waiting. His speed around the court and his ability to ‘pick’ impossible shots will make things difficult, even for a player of Buggy’s calibre.

Prediction: While holding the view that this is one of the most open 40×20 senior championships for several years and equally that it could be won by any of the four semi finalists, I believe that Gavin Buggy’s shock and disappointment at being ousted in 2018 may well have been replaced by a steely determination to reassert himself as the top 40×20 player in the county. If that is the case then his need may just be greater than the others and in the final analysis, in a Wexford senior championship brimming with talent, it may indeed come down to who wants it the most.