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Success in Irish Nationals for eight Tyrone players
Tyrone has savoured some momentous achievements at major handball events over the last few years, and the third Sunday of April turned out to be another of those memorable occasions as the county stole the limelight at the 2013 Irish Junior Nationals in County Clare, and then one week later three more titles were added on home soil as the county hosted a number of categories in the Irish adult Nationals.
Having claimed just one All-Ireland (40×20) championship title this year, covering all juvenile and adult competitions, thanks to Eilise McCrory in the girls under-15 singles category, the county has ended the Irish Nationals with a magnificent tally of eight titles for all grades.
The sizeable Tyrone contingent headed off for the Junior Nationals with plenty of hope but not with huge expectation. That hope was duly translated into an outstanding success story as the Tyrone representation returned home two days later with a stunning tally of five national titles and three runners-up prizes, from a total of fifteen competitions which had involved hundreds of highly skilled young players. A further four players made it to the semi-finals of highly competitive grades.
The five players who ensured that Tyrone finished top of the roll of honour for this year’s massive event were Gabhain McCrystall, Lorcan McBride, Elizabeth McGarvey, Ciaran Cuddy, and the player who has blossomed into a precocious talent in 2013, Eilise McCrory.
Of this quintet, Lorcan McBride would probably have been considered Tyrone’s best prospect of winning silverware beforehand but apart from all the other accomplished opponents he had to contend with, there was the small matter of Eoghain McGinnity from Monaghan to worry about, the same player that had defeated Lorcan in the Ulster under-12 singles final last month.
However, Lorcan progressed very smoothly through the early rounds, defeating his recent county final opponent Dara Curran at the quarter-final stage, and inevitably he found himself face to face with the stylish Monaghan player. But this time there was no stopping the Carrickmore player as he swept aside the challenge of McGinnity in clinical fashion, winning 11-5, 11-6 with an impressive showing.
Gabhain McCrystall, the 2013 Ulster minor singles champion, had one of the stiffest challenges on his hands in the boys 17 and under competition because this category contained All-Ireland minor singles and doubles champion, Clare’s Colin Crehan, amongst others.
Gabhain has been in superb form in recent months and he delivered in brilliant fashion, cruising through to the the last four before disposing of Clare’s Barry Nash in the semi-final and then winning a thriller against world champion Crehan to capture the presitgious 17 & under title, registering a 11-7 tiebreaker victory to avenge his All-Ireland minor semi-final loss.
And Eilise McCrory’s remarkable rise continued in Clare as she added to her Tyrone, Ulster and All-Ireland under-15 successes this season by overcoming the formidable challenge of All-Ireland under-16 title holder Niamh Coleman to lift the girls 15 & under title.
Eilise went into the junior nationals in the best form of her life but not many expected her to see off Roscommon’s All-Ireland under-16 finalist, Fiona Tully, and Armagh’s brilliant world champion, Niamh Coleman, but the Breacach star once again rose to the occasion in sparkling fashion and beat the two players recognised as the best under-16 girls in Ireland to emerge with yet another major trophy.
Elizabeth McGarvey had lost to Caitlin Conway in the county under-12 singles final a week before the nationals but the Ulster champion rediscovered her very best form in the Irish Nationals as she put together a series of classy performances to take the girls 11 and under prize, ousting the number one seed, Kildare’s Mollie Dagg, in the decider to secure a wonderful success. The Kildare player had seen off Caitlin’s challenge at the semi-final stage but found Elizabeth in unstoppable form in the final.
The fifth Tyrone success came in the under-13b singles event which produced an all Tyrone final, and it was Carrickmore’s Ciaran Cuddy who eventually won an exciting encounter with Darragh Canavan, recording an 11-8 win in the tiebreaker to round off an unforgettable weekend for the county.
Maeve McElduff and Cormac Munroe made it an incredible seven Tyrone players to feature in the finals programme iin Clare, with Maeve eventually going down to All-Ireland minor champion Ciana Ni Churraoin from Galway, and Cormac losing out in the boys 13 & under decider to Clare’s Tiernan Agnew after an eyecatching run to the final.
Sean Kerr, Caitlin Conway, Michaela McCartan and Aaron Owens all performed well to reach the semi-finals of their respective competitions as Tyrone handball took many of the plaudits at one of the biggest events on the national handball calendar.
Meanwhile, the Irish adult nationals took place last weekend at venues across Tyrone, Monaghan and Cavan, and a trio of Tyrone players were successful in Sunday’s finals.
Breacach pair Maeve McElduff and Barry Devlin completed a magnificent double for their club in the mens b and womens b competitions, with both players emerging triumphant from highly competitive sections.
And Loughmacrory’s Kenny Curran achieved success in the silver masters b competition as he saw off opponents from Monaghan and Mayo on Saturday in Tydavnet before defeating fellow Tyrone man Tony McElduff on Sunday evening in Beragh.
It turned out to be a notable weekend for one particular family as Beragh played host to three national finals on Sunday which all involved members of the McElduff family.
Maeve, who had been runner-up a week earlier in the 17 and under final in County Clare, got the ball rolling with an impressive victory in the womens b final against Kildare’s Una Wrynn.
Maeve’s brother Conor then attempted to add the mens b title as he faced fellow clubman, Barry Devlin, in what turned out to be an epic contest. Barry strode to victory in the opener before Conor bounced back in great style to win the second game and, despite sustaining an injury in the tiebreaker, he pushed the Ulster junior champion all the way in the tiebreaker before Barry clinched the title with just two points to spare (11-9).
Conor and Maeve’s father Tony had recorded some great victories at Tydavnet on Saturday to qualify for the silver masters final but was unable to finish the job off as he went down to cousin Kenny Curran in the last game of an action packed weekend.
The two adult successes for Breacach last Sunday brings their total for the Irish Nationals this year to an incredible five titles, including the three junior titles captured a week earlier by Elizabeth McGarvey, Eilise McCrory and Gabhain McCrystal.
The 2013 Irish Nationals have been a huge success story for Tyrone with a total of eight titles won – including five junior titles in County Clare and three adult titles all won on home soil, with another five players also reaching finals.
The last two weekends have ensured that Tyrone handball ends the 40×20 season at national level on a high note.