The Wexford Winter League was a resounding success once again

Winter League overview by AOB

Once again the Winter League 4-wall (40×20) event proved to be a terrific promotional and development tool for the sport in Wexford with impressive stats emerging from the completed competition. From a promotional point of view, the decision to seek a sponsor for this pre Christmas flagship event proved to be very worthwhile as the exposure gained from the partnership between Wexford GAA Handball and Moyne Veterinary Hospital was significant and hopefully beneficial to both entities. 

In recent years the decision to include juveniles from age 15 upwards in these adult competitions has proven to be a correct one, with the vast majority of those taking part showing notable improvement during the lifetime of the competition. The benefits gained by young players when playing against older and more experienced opponents was very evident as the league progressed and by the finish, four players of 16 and under stood on the winners rostrum.

Here’s a brief look at all groups

Group A – In a small but select field, the cream came to the top and Galen Riordan overcame Gavin Buggy in a brilliant final between two players who earlier this year won the All Ireland senior softball champonship.

Group B – Shane Birney continues to make his way up the ranking ladder and his success over David Stanners in the final means he will mix it with the big guns when the 2023 event comes around. The young players in this tough group peformed very well and while they didn’t feature at the finish, both did come out with their reputations enhanced. Likewise with Stanners who took some big scalps on his way to the final.

Group C – After a few frusterating years it was great to see Liam Rossiter enjoy a successful season and his win here added to the softball equivalent he had won earlier this year. James Stanners battled hard to make the final, but on this occasion he had to give best to a fired up Ballyhogueman.

Group D – A brilliant showing by young Jamie Barnes in the final against a game Mick Armstrong justified all the faith held by his supporters and with tie break wins in both semi final and final, his resilence cannot be doubted. Mick Armstrong’s competitiveness against younger players, in some cases almost 40 years younger, was particularly notable and shows the fire is still burning within!  another youngster William Murphy came close to making the final, only losing out 11-9 to Barnes in the semi final.  

Group E – At 15 years of age, Sean Fitzharris was the second youngest of the 73 who entered the leagues, but like many others he grew in stauture as the competition progressed. Tellingly perhaps, he produced his best performance when it was needed most, in the final against the experienced Tommy Moore. Liam Murphy and Brian Busher made this a tough and competitive grouping.

Group F – The hardworking County Chairperson Ricky Barron was a deserving winner here and he showed all his experience to rein in a rampant Jack Murphy in the final. He found himself a long ways behind in the early stages, but when he got to the pace of the game there was only going to be one winner. 

Group G – After dominating this group throughout the league stages Jack Whitty entered the final a strong favourite to win out and he didn’t disappoint. Beaten finalist Jamie Moran was the youngest player in the entire league and he came close to causing an upset. Jodie Keeling performed well in this group before injury intervened.   

Group H – It was great to see Jack Roche back in action and the Bridgetown player showed plenty of skills on his way to a fine victory over Barry Stone. The runner up was a revelation too as he had not played for quite a while and he managed to turn over overyone except the winner. 

Group I – In many ways this may have been the most evenly matched grouping in the league as everyone lost at least twice before the semi final stage was reached. When the dust had settled it was 16 year old Morgan Nash-Colfer who emerged the winner over Brendan Murphy after a fine showing in the final. Another 16 year old, Adam Cronin-Kenny also caught the eye as did Ross Arnold, in a group that was wide open throughout. 

Group J – In the end it turned into a shootout between Kilmyshall clubmates and doubles partners Jimmy Dunne and Tom Byrne and what a battle in proved to be. Either could have taken it in two straights, but when it went into the tiebreak Dunne pulled clear to record the win. 

Other interesting stats

For the first time ever, all 10 players who topped their group after the league stages, went on to win the competition. 

Also for the first time, all those finishing second in their group won their semi final, but then went on to lose the final.

In another break with tradition, no player who finished third or fourth in their group qualified for the final.

No player had maximum points after the group stages and only five of the ten groups had an unbeaten player at that stage. 

Five players, Galen Riordan, Sean Fitzharris, Jack Whitty, Jack Roche and Jimmy Dunne remained unbeaten throughout the league.

With 20.24 points per game, Jack Roche, Bridgetown had the best scores for average.

Jack Whitty, Taghmon had the best scores against average, conceding only 5.93 points per game. 

With 11 matches that were decided by a tiebreak, Group I was the most evenly matched. 

Of the 179 matches that were played, 72.07% resulted in a straight sets (2-0) win, with 27.93% of matches played going to a tiebreak.  

Only 4.85% of matches fixed were called off. 

From 73 entries, 5 players (6.85%) withdrew without playing. 

All 13 Wexford clubs took part and Taghmon were the most successful with 3 wins, followed by Ballyhogue with 2 and Bridgetown, Castlebridge, Kilmyshall, St. Mary’s and Templeudigan with 1 apiece.

St Martins lost all 3 finals they played in, with Castlebridge and Kilmyshall losing 2 each.