Proud veterans resist a youthful takeover in Wexford

Alley Chat by AOB

When Galen Riordan, Ballyhogue (a junior player) and Daniel Kavanagh, St. Josephs (an intermediate player) broke the  mould in Wexford last year by fighting out the final of the county 40×20 senior singles championship, it was generally felt that this was a changing of the guard after many years of domination by top senior players Tommy Hynes, Gavin Buggy and Barry Goff in particular.

This has happened before in Wexford and usually when the time arrived for the younger players to take over from the established stars they did so in a manner that suggested they would maintain the standards our senior championship expected and demanded from its winners. The 2018 final between Riordan and Kavanagh happily not only met that criteria but hinted strongly of a further raising of the bar in our premier 4 wall competition. Either way it looked like a legitimate end to one era and the beginning of another as both of the young finalists had already recorded significant national achievements and appeared destined not just to remain on top in Wexford but to climb the national ladder as well.

For some it was probably a bit sad to see none of the aforementioned Hynes, Buggy and Goff feature in that senior singles final back in February, but Hynes at 47 years of age, Buggy at 44 and Goff at 40, lost nothing by their absence and their achievements throughout long and chequered careers will always ensure their legacies remain intact.

So the future’s sorted then is it? Not quite!

First Kavanagh withdrew from the 2019 senior championship following defeat to Noel Holohan in the intermediate grade and then reigning champion Riordan found that defending the title just might be a lot harder than actually winning it for a first time.

Why so? Well its down to the so called veterans really who, in a remarkable show of collective defiance, just don’t know when to quit. Perhaps they felt they had more to give and we were all a bit quick to consider them participants rather than contenders! And of course nobody asked them if they were ready to play supporting roles in Ireland’s best ever county senior championship.

Well we know the answer to that one now!

In the biggest group ever assembled for the county 40×20 senior open singles championship it is the durable Buggy who leads the way on 19 points from seven games. His only dropped points came against Hynes and Goff and he has already inflicted a 21-12, 21-16 defeat on Riordan.  No lack of ambition and belief is evident from the many times champion and with a place in the semi final now assured he has once again become the man to beat.

A slightly less effective campaign by Hynes saw him in danger of not making the knockout stages and with difficult matches looming against Riordan and Keith Armstrong, his participation in the semi finals appeared unlikely. Not so and in a remarkable two weeks he added another five points to his total, courtesy of a 21-6, 21-20 win over Riordan followed by a 15-21, 21-16, 21-16 victory against Armstrong. His points tally now stands at 16 and if he beats Barry Goff in his final game he will finish the league stages in second place. Not bad for a player with an on-off relationship with the small blue ball!

Unlike Tommy Hynes and Gavin Buggy, Barry Goff has not played a lot of 40×20 (or indeed any handball) in recent years and consequently entered the championship more in hope than expectation. Despite that it was only fitness that separated him from victory in several matches, including those against Riordan, Armstrong and Buggy. His last match will be against Hynes and if he can manage a 2-0 victory, and if Buggy does the same against Armstrong, then the three players who have dominated Wexford handball will make up three of the semi finalists in the 2019 county 40×20 championship.  So much for that cold night back in February when we were considering writing handball obituaries!

The championship matters in Wexford.