Tyrone handballers pursuing gold medals in All Ireland finals festival
There is a huge weekend of exhilarating handball ahead and Tyrone representatives will feature strongly in the 2017 All Ireland 40×20 championship finals which will take place over three action packed days.
Tyrone players triumphed in nine out of 16 All Ireland 40×20 semi final appearances last week, paving the way for the biggest weekend of the year as players from all over Ireland get ready to converge on Kingscourt for a mouthwatering feast of high quality championship action, which commences on St Patrick’s Day and continues relentlessly right through until Sunday evening.
The highlight of the three day programme will be the men’s and ladies All Ireland senior championship finals on Saturday evening, with Armagh’s Charly Shanks bidding once again for his first senior crown against the brilliant title holder Robbie McCarthy from Westmeath, while Cork’s Catriona Casey meets Limerick’s Martina McMahon in an appetising ladies open final.
The Tyrone interest in the weekend festival is mainly centred on Sunday’s action as the county will proudly participate in no fewer than six All Ireland juvenile championship finals with high hopes of success.
Tyrone will also be represented in three of the adult singles finals on Friday and Saturday as Breacach pair Michelle Warren and Eilise McCrory bid for glory in the ladies championships and Kenny Curran strives for a first All Ireland triumph in the golden masters category.
But it will be Sunday when the county’s handball followers will be arriving in big numbers to see nine of Tyrone’s young stars stake their claims for championship gold medals.
The fixture makers have also put all six finals involving Tyrone on the main court so it will be a huge day for the county.
The two biggest games of the day will feature two of the best underage players that the county has ever produced.
The under-16 singles championship is always regarded as the elite juvenile title in boys and girls handball and Tyrone have never completed the double before. In fact, the county has never won the girls under-16 singles title previously, while only Ciaran Curran (1989/90), Padraig McGlinchey (2004) and Sean Kerr (2014) have captured the boys’ title, with Antoin Fox going so close to emulating them last year.
The under-16 championships are extremely difficult to win but Tyrone have an outstanding chance of claiming both the boys and girls titles for the first time when Lorcan McBride and Mairead Fox take on Wexford’s Josh Kavanagh and Kildare’s Leah Doyle in the two headline matches on Sunday.
While Lorcan will be regarded as hot favourite to take the blue riband boys title back to the county, Mairead will be a clear underdog in the girls under-16 decider.
Lorcan will be striving to complete a fabulous hattrick of All Ireland championships on Sunday as he won the under 14 singles title two years ago and then secured the under-16 doubles title last year alongside his clubmate Cormac Munroe. So a victory on Sunday would be the icing on the cake to complete an outstanding juvenile championship career for the silky Carrickmore player.
Lorcan has been in scintillating form this year and in his last two encounters against Monaghan’s Eoghan McGinnity and Clare’s Mark Rodgers he could not have been any more impressive in the way he cruised to victory with handball of the highest order.
He has rightly earned the tag of hot favourite for Sunday’s title clash with the rising Wexford star and it would be a major surprise if Lorcan isn’t celebrating the most significant triumph of his career come Sunday evening.
Mairead is clearly up against a class act in Leah Doyle in the under-16 girls final but the 14 year old Loughmacrory girl has never lost a juvenile championship game at Ulster or All Ireland level in either 40×20 or 60×30 and she knows how to rise to the challenge for the biggest games at the highest level.
Mairead created a lot of history with her unprecedented achievements at under-14 level on the national stage last year, earning the Ulster Herald young sports personality of the year award last week, but this is her biggest test to date as she is stepping up to an older age group this year.
She has done brilliantly so far to reach the final but her task this weekend gets much harder and she will have to produce the best performance of her life to take the title, but this prize is something she is capable of achieving.
Not only are Tyrone going for a massive double in the under-16 singles divisions, the county also has a fantastic chance of victory in another of the big under-16 finals as Caitlin Conway and Elizabeth McGarvey team up to try and bring a title back to Tyrone that has only ever been won once before, with Maeve McElduff and Aoife Kelly lifting the girls under-16 doubles title in 2012.
Caitlin and Elizabeth are two of Tyrone’s best and most experienced juvenile players and have both made a big name for themselves on the juvenile circuit in recent years. It would be really fitting if they could end their 40×20 juvenile careers with an All Ireland championship triumph and they have a great chance against Kilkenny pair Roisin O’Keefe and Edel Mulholland.
Caitlin almost claimed the under-16 doubles All Ireland title last year alongside Ciara Mullan so she will be extremely determined to do it this year.
Outside the under-16 grade, Tyrone will also be involved in another major singles final on Sunday as Carrickmore’s Clodagh Munroe attempts to follow in the footsteps of Mairead Fox by winning the All Ireland under-14 singles title when she meets Mayo’s Hazel Finn.
Clodagh still has another year to go at under-14 level but could win the title in sensational style a year ahead of schedule after beating the championship favourite, Clare’s Chloe Philpott, in the semi-final.
Clodagh is a very talented young girl and to top it off she is a fantastic competitor and those qualities can take her all the way to glory on Sunday, although the Mayo girl is a serious opponent after defeating Kilkenny’s Amy Brennan impressively in the semi-final.
Jonathan Owens and Jack Darcy will fly the Tyrone flag in the boys under-14 doubles final against Wexford’s Mark Doyle and Conor Murphy and while the Tyrone lads will be slight underdogs they are two great young players and are very capable of registering a famous victory for the county.
Only Cormac Munroe and Darragh Canavan in 2014 have brought the under-14 doubles title back to Tyrone before, so like every All Ireland final on Sunday these titles are notoriously difficult to win.
But the Breacach pair showed in their battling semi-final win over Clare that they will be ready to produce a big game on Sunday and they have the ability to upset the Wexford duo.
Meabh McCrystall and Claire Conway recorded a thrilling semi-final win over Limerick in the All Ireland under 17 doubles championship and it will be a great occasion for them to take part in the All Ireland final programme on Sunday, but they will also be going there to win when they take on a strong Wexford doubles team.
Claire and Meabh would certainly be really popular winners if they could pull off the victory on Sunday and the Loughmacrory/Breacach combination have the potential to do it.
Tyrone are sure to compete strongly in all six juvenile All Ireland finals on Sunday and there will almost certainly be some gold medals coming the county’s way on Sunday night.
There is also a big chance of gold medals being picked up sooner than that as Michelle Warren and Eilise McCrory both have a fine opportunity of earning All Ireland honours.
Interestingly the two Breacach clubmates will be meeting two Leixlip clubmates as Michelle faces Kildare’s Ellen O’Connor in the junior b singles decider and Eilise takes on Hannah Dagg in the junior championship final.
Both matches will represent tough assignments for the Tyrone girls but Michelle has enjoyed a brilliant run in recent years and continues to get better and better as her experience and confidence continue to grow, while Eilise is undoubtedly a class act on her day and can deliver another major title if she plays to her potential against last year’s All Ireland minor runner-up.
Both games will be very close and exciting and it would be a major coup if Breacach could pull off the ladies double.
Kenny Curran, meanwhile, represents Loughmacrory on Saturday’s programme and will go into battle against Mayo’s George Millar with a 50-50 chance of victory in the golden masters B final. The Tyrone player’s fine semi-final win over Limerick’s John Ryan was great preparation for what promises to be another close affair this weekend.
Overall there is a lot to look forward to over the weekend and Tyrone’s twelve All Ireland finalists are guaranteed to do their county proud in Kingscourt regardless of the eventual scorelines.
ALL IRELAND 40X20 JUVENILE CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI FINAL RESULTS
U14 girls singles
Clodagh Munroe (Tyrone) beat Chloe Philpott (Clare) 15-10, 15-7
U14 boys doubles
Jonathan Owens & Jack Darcy (Tyrone) beat Tiernan Slattery & Patrick Crotty (Clare) 13-15, 15-13, 15-10
U16 boys singles
Lorcan McBride (Tyrone) beat Mark Rodgers ((Clare) 21-5, 21-2
U16 girls singles
Mairead Fox (Tyrone) beat Amber Nolan (Clare) 21-5, 21-19
U16 girls doubles
Caitlin Conway & Elizabeth McGarvey (Tyrone) beat Orla O Brien & Shauna Doyle (Clare) 21-13, 21-4
U17 boys singles
Caolan McCartan (Tyrone) lost to Daire Keane (Kerry) 1-21, 13-21
U17 girls singles
Michaela McCartan (Tyrone) lost to Aoife Hurley (Cork) 20-21, 21-19, 7-11
U17 girls doubles
Meabh McCrystall & Claire Conway (Tyrone) beat Keri Murphy & Ciara McCarthy (Limerick) 21-20, 11-21, 11-8
ALL IRELAND 40X20 ADULT CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI FINAL RESULTS
Cork (Tagdh O’Neill) beat Tyrone (Cormac Munroe) 21-4, 21-7
Clare (Colin Corbett) beat Tyrone (Ryan Mullan) 21-9, 21-5
Cork (Tadgh Carroll) beat Tyrone (Shane O’Neill) 21-6, 21-20
Masters B singles
Tipperary (Brian O’Brien) beat Tyrone (Chris Curran) 21-20, 21-15
Golden Masters A singles
Cork (John Herlihy) beat Tyrone (Barney Corcoran) 21-11, 21-9
Golden masters B singles
Tyrone (Kenny Curran) beat Limerick (John Ryan) 21-18, 15-21, 21-15
Ladies junior B singles
Tyrone (Michelle Warren) beat Cork (Brid Horgan) 21-14, 21-4
Ladies junior singles
Tyrone (Eilise McCrory) beat Limerick (Katie McCarthy) 21-4, 21-1
ALL IRELAND 40X20 CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS 2017
Friday 17th March @ 4pm
Ladies junior B singles:
Tyrone (Michelle Warren) v Kildare (Ellen O’Connor)
Saturday 18th March @ 10am
Ladies junior singles;
Tyrone (Eilise McCrory) v Kildare (Hannah Dagg)
Golden masters B singles:
Tyrone (Kenny Curran) v Mayo (George Miller)
Sunday 19th March @ 10am
Girls U14 singles:
Tyrone (Clodagh Munroe) v Mayo (Hazel Finn)
Boys U14 doubles:
Tyrone (Jonathan Owens & Jack Darcy) v Wexford (Conor Murphy & Mark Doyle)
Girls U16 doubles:
Tyrone (Caitlin Conway & Elizabeth McGarvey) v Kilkenny (Roisín O’Keeffe & Edel Mulholand)
Girls U17 doubles:
Tyrone (Claire Conway & Meabh McCrystall) v Wexford (Cliodhna O’Connell & Eva Crean)
Girls U16 singles:
Tyrone (Mairead Fox) v Kildare (Leah Doyle)
Boys U16 singles:
Tyrone (Lorcan McBride) v Wexford (Josh Kavanagh)