The Kathleen Burke Cup Finals were played in front of a large attendance in Monavea recently.
This is the most prestigious singles competition in Laois handball and the quality of handball served up on the day was reflective of the ever rising standards within the county.
The Division Three Final was a battle between young and old when the experienced Frank Nolan faced an ever improving Eamon Brennan. Both players had been hugely impressive in qualifying for the final and a tightly fought encounter was expected. The first game was a nip and tuck affair with both players trading aces.
Frank showed the greater ability to kill the ball but Eamon was resilient and his powerful serving was causing Frank some concern. With the game on a knife edge, it was Eamon who prevailed by finishing the stronger to take the opening game on a 21-17 scoreline.
The second game was to follow a similar pattern with little separating the two players. Eamon’s fitness was eventually to prove the decisive factor as he capitalised on his opponent making a number of unforced errors to take the Division Three title 21-17 21-17.
In Division Two, it was an all-Brennan affair with Peter Brennan playing Joe Brennan in the final. Peter started the final in determined fashion building up an early four ace lead. However, Joe remained composed and showed all his experience to reel in the deficit. Once Joe had restored parity, he continued to play the superior handball going on to win the first game 21-12.
The second game was to see both players enjoy periods of dominance. Joe held an early commanding lead before Peter upped his game considerably to take back the initiative. Incredibly from being 12-5 down, Peter now found himself 16-12 up and in pole position to take the second game and bring the final to a tie-breaker.
Remarkably, the drama didn’t end there with Joe finding renewed energy to stage his own comeback. With the scores tied at 18 apiece it was Joe who finished the stronger to capture the Division Two title on a scoreline of 21-12 21-18.
After an absorbing finale to the Division Two Final, the stage was now set for the Division One Final between Pauric Buggy and Peter Whelan. The opening game started at a frantic pace with both players fighting for every ace on offer. Realising that the game was firmly in the melting pot with Peter leading 17-16, Pauric upped the ante and raised his game to another level.
He served the ball with great precision and confidently executed a number of kill shots that Peter was powerless to retrieve. This push for the finishing line was decisive and he took the opening game 21-17.
Pauric was to carry the momentum from the end of the first game into the second game. Struggling to match the power and fitness of his opponent, Peter knew he had to alter his tactics. However, Pauric was unfazed by this and continued to play with confidence and skill.
To the delight of the gallery, Pauric impressively finished out the contest with a number of high quality kill shots that gave him a thoroughly deserved first Kathleen Burke Cup on a scoreline of 21-17 21-14.
She’s Ace Handball Title for Dunne
The GAA Handball She’s Ace Tournament is one of the highlights of the handballing year with girls and ladies of all ages and abilities descending on Castlebar and surrounding venues to compete in both a fun and competitive environment.
In the Ladies B section of the tournament, Laois had two entries in Ciara Dowling and Niamh Dunne. Ciara was unfortunately eliminated by the highly impressive Roisín Ní Conghaile of Galway in her quarter final. Niamh enjoyed more success defeating Brona Reilly in her opening game before disposing of Ellen O’Connor of Kildare in the semi-final. This set up a mouthwatering showdown with Roisín Ní Conghaile in the final.
The first game was a cracker with the scores level on a few occasions. There were never more than 3 or 4 aces separating either player, before Niamh made a decisive move in the latter stages to seal the first game 21-13.
The second game proved equally as compelling. Both players were fighting for every ace on offer, with the long rallies and some exquisite attacking play from both ladies proving a treat for the spectators. In the end, Dunne again seized the initiative in the latter stages to close out the match 21-17. This victory was a fantastic achievement for the young Laois handballer and adds another well deserved title to her ever growing list.