GAA Handball weekend review

McCann finds the Golden touch

Mayo’s Joe McCann came out on top in the Golden Gloves Tournament in Belfast on Sunday evening after dominating an impressive field in the opening 40×20 event of the new season.

The Ballaghadereen man had little time to make the transition into the small court since he partnered Dessie Keegan to the 2011 M Donnelly GAA Handball 60×30 doubles final last month when they lost out to Wexford. Even so, McCann looked fresh and determined for the accolades as he controlled his opponents, with precision handball.

In the final showdown, he proved too strong for 17 and under USHA champion, Cork’s Killian Carroll in two straight games on Sunday night. Carroll is regarded as one of the future stars in the senior bracket and he enjoyed a great run of victories to the final match up, but he couldn’t match the more efficient McCann who ended rallies with outstanding accuracy.

Carroll will be one of the favourite to secure the 19 and under spot on the Irish junior team heading for the States this Christmas for the US Junior Nationals and this type of training will certainly benefit his preparations.

Carroll overcame Irish Nationals runner up, Clare’s Diarmuid Nash in the opening round to set him on his way before toppling Cork’s Brendan Fleming in the quarter finals. The Mallow club man then needed a tiebreak to advance against Mayo’s Stephen Cooney in the semis.

That was to be the end of the line for the talented teenager who couldn’t curb the experienced McCann who displayed too much control and touch. Carroll’s speed and retrieving ability meant he was able to compete for every rally but the former senior doubles 40×20 champion produced finishing of the highest quality and he never struggled at any stage, running out an easy victor by 21-10, 21-6.

“The tournament went brilliantly and it showcased the young talent that is playing at the top level in Ireland right now. Joe (McCann) was excellent right through the competition and his kill shots were top class and he didn’t look troubled at any stage.” said tournament co-ordinator, Antrim’s Seamus O’Tuama.

“Some of the regular players to our event, like last year’s winner, Armagh’s Charlie Shanks and Mayo’s Dessie Keegan, Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy and Wicklow’s Michael Cregan didn’t make it as they were all involved in the US Open just last weekend. This gave these younger lads like Mayo’s Stephen Cooney, Limerick’s Seamus O’Carroll and CJ Fitzpatrick, Kildare’s Niall O’Connor and our finalist, Cork’s Killian Carroll, a great opportunity to pick up valuable ranking points and get a few wins under their belts at a senior tournament.”

“We’re absolutely delighted with the standard of play and the large crowds were treated to a few major upsets with the likes of Ricky McCann and Ducksy Walsh exiting the tournament before the final stages.” Number one seed, Gort Na Mona’s McCann had to withdraw through injury after losing the first game in his opening match against Kildare’s Niall O’Connor.

“We had great local support and especially from GAA Handball Ireland, who helped make this event a great success,” he said.

In 2010, Armagh’s Shanks took the honours and twelve months later he came within two aces in the tie break of capturing the US Open in California. Ballaghadereen’s McCann will derive terrific confidence from this win and, like Shanks, he will certainly be aiming to make similar strides forward in 2012. His current form will make him a serious contender in the championship series which commences in early 2012.

Experience was also a major factor in the ladies division as Antrim’s Fiona Shannon defeated fellow Saffron, Aisling Reilly, in the tiebreak. Shannon, who will be chasing her fourth world crown in Dublin next October has already shown her intent for the coming season.

Current 40×20 master’s doubles champion, Paddy Crothers bagged the men’s A grade after an outstanding victory over USHA 19 and under champion, Tyrone’s Caolan Daly, while Tomas Maguire denied Paddy Duffy to claim the masters division honours.


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