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Tyrone’s Woods in bid for historic All Ireland Minor clean sweep

Tuesday 09.09.2014
Team Talk Mag
Club


Breacach’s Johnny Woods has undoubtedly had a dream season on the handball courts and is again just one game away from reaching another unprecedented milestone for a Tyrone handballer. In his 2014 campaign to date, Woods has already cemented his name in the record books and a title win on All Ireland Senior Final day in Abbeylara on Saturday with be another massive feather in the cap of one of the most highly regarded young players on the handball circuit at present.

Having become the first Tyrone handballer ever to win the All Ireland Minor Singles and Doubles 40×20 championship titles back in April, a brilliant achievement and one which few of the biggest name in the sport have actually completed. However, Woods has even moved on a step further as he added the Irish Nationals 40×20 17 & Under title to his record haul just a couple of weeks later and then accomplished what many thought would be an impossible task. Having just missed out on eligibility for the One Wall Nationals 17 & Under grade, Woods had to move up to the Irish Nationals 19 & Under Singles event, where he would have effectively been competing against players form 1 to almost 2 years older than him. He duly delivered though with a series of fantastic displays and thus added the One Wall crown to his repertoire and he followed up by moving into the adult ranks at the Lough 1Wall National showdown tournament where he collected in the Men’s B grade honours.

Johnny Woods 1

In addition to all the above he is also the winner of all five possible provincial titles in his grade across three codes of GAA Handball – 40×20, One Wall and 60×30. His next big test now comes this Saturday when he will travel to Abbeylara to take on gifted Tipperary teenager, Daniel Hayes, in the All Ireland Minor 60×30 Singles decider. He will actually be the first Tyrone player to compete on this All Ireland minor and senior final programme in a decade and is bidding for another historic first as he attempts to become the first O’Neill County handballer ever to claim the All Ireland Minor 60×30 title.

Just a glance through what Johnny Woods has achieved to date in 2014 and it is clear that he has already recorded a remarkable series of achievements to date but he goes in search of the minor title on Saturday with a favourites chance of claiming an elusive first ever title win for Tyrone. He was very impressive in his semi final victory over Kilkenny’s Brian Mahon by 21-7, 21-11 at Kingscourt last weekend. In the other half of the draw, Hayes went to a tie-breaker before getting the better of Mayo’s Niall Joyce, albeit in an emphatic third game win by 21-2.

Considering that no Ulster handballer has even captured the All Ireland Minor singles crown since Cavan’s Michael Finnegan twenty years ago suggest that on paper Woods will have a very tough test ahead of him against the well thought of Tipperary star. But his explosive power play, retrieving and ability to deliver decisive attacking shots when it matters could be enough to see him complete an incredible campaign and emerge as the most successful Tyrone player ever to compete in Minor handball.

Also on the programme of course will be the hugely anticipated All Ireland Men’s Open Singles final where Westmeath’s  Robbie McCarthy will take on Dublin legend Eoin Kennedy in the final for the seventh year running. McCarthy bids for four in a row in the event and will be a hot favourite to do so but Kennedy’s recent form has been as good as at any time in the past and the 8 times senior champion is set to make this an epic title showdown again.

Tyrone players go in search of other final places

Last weekend saw Tyrone compete in a number of All Ireland 60×30 softball semi finals against the champions of Leinster but came unstuck in most of the grades. In addition to Woods’ minor singles semi final win, he also teamed up successfully in the Minor Doubles All Ireland semi final as, alongside his partner Ryan Mullan, they defeated Kilkenny’s Brian Mahon and Padraig Cooney by 21-15, 21-14. The Tyrone pairing will thus have the All Ireland Minor doubles decider now on their agenda in just over a fortnight’s time.

Elsewhere, Tyrone were out of luck in a number of grades. Breacach’s Shane O’Neill found Meath’s Gary McConnell in irrepressible form in Crossakiel in the All Ireland Intermediate Singles semi final as he lost out in decisive fashion by 21-2, 21-4. At Loughmacrory there was no joy either for the father and son challenges posed by Conor McElduff in the Junior singles and Anthony McElduff in the Silver Masters B Singles. Conor, fresh from his Men’s Open success in the One Wall code, found the 60×30 guile of Wexford’s Paul Lambert too hot to handle on the day and, despite leading by 18-15 at one stage in game one, he eventually lost out to the talented St. Joseph’s clubman by 21-19, 21-9. Anthony McElduff found Wexford’s Robert Doyle in top class form in his semi final meeting and lost out by 21-0, 21-7. Conor Kerr made the long trip to Castlebridge in Wexford for the Golden Masters B Singles semi final but also found another Wexford player at the top of his game and Stephen Murphy came out on top there by 21-6, 21-18.

Johnny Woods in this weekend’s Minor singles and Maeve McElduff in the Ladies Minor Singles final in one week’s time are thus Tyrone’s only players to qualify for the 2014 All Ireland 60×30 Softball singles championship finals. Woods and Mullan are into the Minor doubles final and this weekend will see the three remaining Tyrone teams go in search of All Ireland doubles final places.

Conor McElduff and Pol Clarke, who won the All Ireland Junior B Doubles championship title twelve months ago, travel to Coolgreaney in Wexford for the All Ireland Junior Doubles semi final. They definitely travel with major chances but face a huge home challenge from Wexford’s Darren O’Toole and Malachy Whelan. On the same programme Conor Kerr and Anthony McElduff will team up in the All Ireland Silver Masters B Doubles championship semi final and again will have to produce a top class display if they are to get the better of Robert Doyle and Ricky Barron. The other semi final involving Tyrone players is also against Wexford as Seamus McCrory and Spillane Martin will team up in the All Ireland Junior B Doubles Championship semi final. The Breacach clubmen will take on Wexford’s Miles Connors and Michael Goggins on Saturday at 2pm but will have the advantage of home venue in Loughmacrory for their challenge.

All Ireland 60×30 Championship fixtures:

Saturday 13th September 2014, in Abbeylara, Co. Longford, 12pm:

Minor Singles Final: Daniel Hayes (Tipperary) v Johnny Woods (Tyrone)

Intermediate Singles Final: Martin Mulkerrins (Galway) v Gary McConnell (Meath)

Men’s Open Singles Final: Robbie McCarthy (Westmeath) v Eoin Kennedy (Dublin)

 

Saturday 13th September at 2pm, in Coolgreaney, Wexford:

Junior Doubles semi final – Wexford (Darren O’Toole/Malachy Whelan) v Tyrone (Conor McElduff/Pól Clarke)

Silver Masters B Doubles semi final – Wexford (Ricky Barron/Robert Doyle) v Tyrone (Conor Kerr/Tony McElduff)

Saturday 13th September at 2pm, in Loughmacrory, Co. Tyrone:

Junior B Doubles semi final – Tyrone (Seamus McCrory/Spillane Martin) v Wexford (Miles Connors/Michael Goggins)

Juvenile prepare for Ulster 60×30 Championship finals

Meanwhile the Tyrone Juvenile 60×30 handball team to be involved in upcoming Ulster finals has also been confirmed and is as follows:

Boys Under 12 Doubles: Cahir Munroe & Fiontainn McNamee

Boys Under 13 Singles: Lorcan McBride

Boys Under 14 Singles: Ronan Curran

Boys Under 14 Doubles: Antoin Fox & Cormac Munroe

Boys Under 15 Singles: Shane Grimes

Boys Under 15 Doubles: Ciaran Cuddy & Turlough Clarke

Boys Under 16 Singles: Sean Kerr

Boys Under 17 Doubles: Aaron Owens & Jack Campbell

Girls Under 14 Singles: Ciara Mullan

Girls Under 14 Doubles: Elizabeth McGarvey & Caitlin Conway

Girs Under 15 Doubles: Michaela McCartan & Emer Kerr

Girls Under 16 Singles: Eilise McCrory

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