Handball update

November 25th, 2016 | Handball, Homepage News, News

SIX TYRONE STARS SET FOR HANDBALL AWARDS…
Huge year for Kerr and Fox families…
Six of Tyrone’s national handball champions from 2016 are on the shortlist for this weekend’s eagerly awaited annual Teamtalk awards night in Bundoran, and the contest for the young handballer of the year prize must be one of the closest of all the Tyrone GAA awards this year as the three brilliant nominees have accumulated twelve major underage titles between them this year from an incredible total of seventeen national finals.
The main competitive action for 2016 ended just over a week ago when Tyrone collected two more national titles at the All Ireland one wall championship finals in Mount Talbot, with Paddy McCrory and Niall Kerr both adding to their earlier triumphs at the Wallball nationals in Breaffy House back in July.
This duo are not even among those shortlisted for the Teamtalk awards night, which emphasises the magnificent level of success achieved by the actual nominees, while other highly accomplished players such as Cormac Munroe and Lorcan McBride, who both secured All Ireland championship medals in 2016, also don’t make the final shortlist.
Other big Tyrone winners at national level in 2016 included veteran Breacach pair, Tony McElduff and Mark McCartan, who were popular winners of the silver masters b doubles title in the All Ireland 40×20 championships, and Elizabeth McGarvey and Ciara Mullan, who recently became girls junior doubles champions at the 60×30 colleges finals. Michelle Warren was also a notable winner of the ladies challenger event at the Irish 40×20 nationals.
There was a fantastic total of nine All-Ireland championship titles collected by Tyrone players in the 40×20 and 60×30 courts during the year, with a further nine titles secured at the 40×20 nationals and one-wall nationals staged in Galway and Belfast respectively. Three All Ireland colleges titles were added to the roll of honour and many other Tyrone players reached major finals during the year.
But there are now just half a dozen handball stars in the running for the two big awards this Friday night. Conor McElduff, Johnny Woods, Sean Kerr, Antoin Fox and Mairead Fox are the five outstanding young talents nominated who all kept winning and challenging for major grade one prizes throughout the year, and they are joined on the awards shortlist by veteran Breacach star Conor Kerr who has undoubtedly enjoyed a new lease of life in recent seasons.
There was a lot of history created by this group of players in 2016 as some of their achievements on the national stage were unprecedented in Tyrone.
Conor McElduff, one of three nominees for the overall handballer of the year prize, had his sights set on completing a three in a row of men’s open one-wall titles at the start of the campaign and he almost pulled off the record breaking feat in July at the wallball nationals in Mayo, only to lose the decider in a tiebreaker to Galway’s Martin Mulkerrins.
Conor, who has become Tyrone’s number one flag bearer in the national arena recently, has subsequently had to take a rest since that defeat and hopefully he will be fit and ready to lay down a serious challenge for honours at the highest level again in 2017. His return in recent weeks to the European circuit, which included trips to Belgium and Holland, is a promising sign for his return to full fitness in 2017.
Before his one wall efforts in the summer, Conor had enjoyed the best 40×20 season of his career as he chalked up an impressive sequence of wins and never lost a single 40×20 match, winning the Tyrone senior league and championship titles for the first time and then becoming the first player from his county to clean up all the intermediate singles and doubles titles at provincial and national level.
Conor won his Ulster and All Ireland intermediate doubles titles alongside Johnny Woods earlier this year and former All Ireland minor champion Johnny is another nominee for the main Teamtalk handball award as he enjoyed a brilliant win at the Irish 40×20 nationals in April, clinching the boys 19 and under singles title in great style.
Johnny has already won both the overall handballer and young handballer of the year awards after a couple of record breaking seasons where he cleaned up in the minor grade two years ago and then at the world championships at 19 and under level in Canada a year ago.
Joining the two former award winners Conor and Johnny on the list of nominees for the handballer of the year award is their clubmate Conor Kerr, who would undoubtedly be a very popular recipient.
Conor was of course a very accomplished handballer for many years but his career looked to be over for a number of years because of injury, but he has come back in the last few years and made a big impact, showing all his class in 2016 with a notable victory in the competitive golden masters b singles division in the 60×30 court, having already won the same title in the 40×20 court two years ago. Conor also secured the Ulster golden masters A singles title in 2016.
On the same day that Conor McElduff clinched the All Ireland intermediate singles title in Kingscourt, his cousin Sean Kerr was winning a thrilling All Ireland minor singles championship final in the adjacent court to make it another landmark day in the history of the Breacach club.
Sean, one of the three nominees for the young handballer of the year honour, has arguably been the most successful underage talent that Tyrone has ever produced as he won all before him through the juvenile ranks, so it was a dream way to end his underage career with a famous victory in the minor 40×20 showpiece in 2016, the result meaning he became only the second Tyrone player in history to complete the prestigious treble of All Ireland under-14, under-16 and under-18 singles titles.
Sean had an outstanding year generally and added the Irish nationals 17 and under title to his minor championship win, before heading to America for the US nationals and claiming the Mens A singles prize. He lost out in two All Ireland minor doubles finals, and he was unlucky to suffer a rare defeat at the one wall nationals in the 17 and under singles final. And only last week he performed admirably in the All Ireland men’s open wallball finals.
Sean, a former young player of the year award winner after his historic under-14 campaign back in 2012, leads the nominees for the young player award this weekend and is up against two of the best juveniles that the county has ever produced, making the standard of this year’s young player category the highest it has ever been.
Loughmacrory pair Antoin and Mairead Fox created history with their groundbreaking achievements in all codes of handball this year, and what makes their records in 2016 all the more remarkable is that they are brother and sister. Between them they have amassed ten major national titles, winning five apiece, and remarkably they are responsible for bringing four of those titles to Tyrone for the first time ever.

Mairead became the most successful juvenile girl player in Tyrone history when she completed a fabulous clean sweep of under-14 titles across all codes, winning All Ireland under-14 singles titles in the 40×20 and 60×30 championships, and adding the 13 and under titles at the Irish one wall and 40×20 nationals. Three of those titles had never been won by the county previously and no Ulster player had ever done the clean sweep before. In fact this feat has only ever been accomplished once in the history of girls’ under-14 handball.
Mairead completed her stunning collection of national honours with a fifth gold medal in the All Ireland Feile division one skills competition, while her Loughmacrory team lost by the narrowest of margins in their attempts to become the first Tyrone girls team to win the division one feile title.
Antoin almost pulled off a similar clean sweep for Tyrone in the boys under-16 grade but had to be content with the runner-up medal in the All-Ireland 40×20 under-16 singles decider. Antoin more than made up for that narrow defeat to Clare’s Tiernan Agnew as he went on to secure gold medals at the one wall nationals and 40×20 nationals and wrapped up his outstanding year by becoming the first Tyrone player to win the All Ireland under-16 singles title in the 60×30 championships.
He also went to America in between and picked up the 15 and under US nationals title and then added the 17 and under US nationals title, and collected two All Ireland colleges doubles titles in the colours of Omagh CBS.
Overall this was another outstanding year for the county’s representatives and it was a particularly massive year for the Kerr and Fox families, with Sean, Niall and Conor earning brilliant national victories for the Kerr clan, along with their cousin and brother in law, Conor and Tony McElduff, while Loughmacrory brother and sister Mairead and Antoin Fox were probably the two most successful juvenile handballers in the whole of Ireland in 2016.
Breacach are guaranteed to win the Tyrone handballer of the year award for the fourth year in a row as Conor McElduff (2013 and 2014) and Johnny Woods (2015) have won the last three awards, with Carrickmore’s Caolan Daly winning four years ago in 2012.
Breacach have also won three of the last four young player of the year awards courtesy of Sean Kerr (2012), Eilise McCrory (2013) and Johnny Woods (2014), with Carrickmore’s Cormac Munroe taking the prize last year.
Antoin and Mairead Fox will be hoping that Loughmacrory receives recognition this time in the young player category following their record breaking achievements across all codes in 2016.
TYRONES’ ALL IRELAND CHAMPIONS 2016…
ALL IRELAND 40X20 CHAMPIONS 2016…
Intermediate singles – Conor McElduff
Minor singles – Sean Kerr
Under-14 girls singles – Mairead Fox
Intermediate doubles – Conor McElduff & Johnny Woods
Silver masters B doubles – Tony McElduff & Mark McCartan
Under-16 boys doubles – Cormac Munroe & Lorcan McBride
ALL IRELAND 60X30 CHAMPIONS 2016…
Under-14 girls singles – Mairead Fox
Under-16 boys singles – Antoin Fox
Golden masters B singles – Conor Kerr
IRISH 40X20 NATIONALS CHAMPIONS 2016…
13 & under girls singles – Mairead Fox
15 & under boys singles – Antoin Fox
17 & under boys singles – Sean Kerr
19 & under boys singles – Johnny Woods
Ladies challenger singles – Michelle Warren
IRISH ONE-WALL NATIONALS CHAMPIONS 2016…
13 & under girls singles – Mairead Fox
15 & under boys singles – Antoin Fox
Mens B singles – Paddy McCrory
Silver masters singles – Niall Kerr
ALL IRELAND WALLBALL CHAMPIONS 2016…
Mens B singles – Paddy McCrory
Masters singles – Niall Kerr
ALL IRELAND 40X20 COLLEGES CHAMPIONS 2016…
Boys junior doubles – Antoin Fox & Lorcan McBride
ALL IRELAND 60X30 COLLEGES CHAMPIONS 2016…
Boys intermediate doubles – Antoin Fox & Lorcan McBride
Girls junior doubles – Ciara Mullan & Elizabeth McGarvey

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