Last Saturday, Andrew Dowling and Peter Whelan lost out on All-Ireland glory when they were narrowly beaten by John Casey and Denis Quinn of Cork in a very exciting Junior B handball final played in O’Loughlins.
The final proved to be a hard fought battle lasting nearly two hours and had the packed gallery on the edge of their seats for most of the encounter.
The first game gave little indication of the drama that was about to unfold as it proved to be a totally one-sided affair dominated by the Corkside. Playing with a greater intensity and purpose, the Cork handballers quickly built up a 12-0 lead before Dowling and Whelan registered their first score of the contest. Despite their best efforts, the Laois handballers failed to mount any sort of comeback and the Cork duo took the first game on a score-line of 21-2.
After the five minute interval, the Laois handballers returned to the alley for the second game showing renewed purpose. Upping their game considerably, Dowling and Whelan finally began to match their Cork counterparts and eked out an 11-10 lead playing intelligent handball. Realising that they were now in a game, the Cork handballers called two time-outs in quick succession but Dowling and Whelan were unfazed by this and continued to play superb handball edging 19-13 ahead. With the finishing line in slight, the Laois pair maintained their composure and took the second game after nearly an hour of play on a score-line of 21-15.
The Laois handballers were to make a fantastic start to the decider building up a 5-2 lead. Despite having numerous opportunities to build on this score, Dowling and Whelan inexplicably failed to capitalise on any of these and allowed the Cork players to pull 12-5 ahead. The Laois handballers continued to fight for every ace but the exertions of mounting a fightback in the second game were now showing and they were unable to make further inroads into the Cork lead.
In the end, Casey and Quinn took the decider on a score-line of 21-9 leaving the Laois handballers deflated but still proud of their achievements in reaching the All-Ireland final and capturing a Leinster title en-route.
Laois Juvenile Handball
The Irish Junior Nationals take place next weekend with a number of Laois handballers in competition.
In the Girls 17&UB, Laois will be represented by Eimear Delaney, Rachel Delahunty and Niamh Dunne. In the Girls 15&UB, Laois will be represented by Leah Dunphy, Emily McGuigan, Avril Deegan and Louise Walsh.
The Girls 13&UB sees Maebh Bergin and Molly O’Connor in action while in the Girls 11&U Lauren McGuigan and Maebh Deegan will fly the flag for the county.
In the Boys competition Laois have three qualifiers with Padraic Dunne and Eoghan Doheny in the 13&UB competition and Padraig Delany participating in the 13&U.
Well done to Niamh Dunne on being selected for the Leinster team that participated in the Team of 10 last week. Unfortunately, Leinster failed to capture the title which was won by a strong Munster team.