Tyrone picked up two major All Ireland doubles titles last weekend as the 2017 40×20 championships reached a climax in Kingscourt.
A total of four Tyrone doubles teams featured in the weekend finals programme and two of the big titles were secured in wonderful style on Saturday as Shane O’Neill and Sean Kerr lifted the All-Ireland intermediate doubles title and Ryan Mullan and Johnny Woods teamed up successfully yet again to capture the under-21 doubles prize.
Unfortunately there was to be no joy for Tyrone’s junior ladies pairing, Michelle Warren and Cloideach Donaghy, who lost their final to Roscommon on Saturday, while the silver masters duo of Finbarr Fullen and Kenny Curran also missed out on gold medals against Kilkenny on Sunday.
Sean Kerr, Johnny Woods and Ryan Mullan were all adding to a growing collection of major honours when they triumphed brilliantly on Saturday but for Shane O’Neill it was a particularly sweet moment for him to finally get his hands on an elusive intermediate gold medal after so many near misses.
Shane was delighted to finally earn intermediate doubles glory alongside his Breacach clubmate, Sean Kerr.
“It’s great to win this title,” said Shane, “and I was never going to give up until I got an intermediate All Ireland medal.
“It was a really tough game and my heart goes out to Kilkenny because Brendan and Ciaran are great lads,” continued Shane, “but I just couldn’t bear the pain of losing again and during Saturday’s match I decided I was not going down that road again.
“We played the best in the business, Brady and Finnegan, twice a week to train for this All Ireland and it paid off,” revealed the Breacach star.
“We pressed hard for double figures against them and when we won 21-20 in a training game one night, it was special. We also got a bad thumping on a couple of occasions, but it was brilliant training against the best around.
“We had dinner one day with Paul Brady and we talked for three hours, and both Sean and I learned a lot. Paul is a very influential figure in Irish sport and it was great to get some help from him.”
“Sean is the best partner anyone could wish for,” Shane insisted, “he is such a talented player and gets everything. We both have a burning desire for handball, we both love it and it is just like a drug.”
Shane missed out on the intermediate singles title in the 40×20 court this year, going down narrowly in the All-Ireland semi-final to eventual winner, Tadhg Carroll from Cork, but he now has his sights on the singles title in the 60×30 court and he will be high on confidence following his 40×20 breakthrough.
“The intermediate singles in the big alley is my new target now, so that is the next goal I will be aiming for,” concluded the happy All-Ireland winner.
While Shane was enjoying an overdue intermediate victory on Saturday, his partner Sean, last year’s All-Ireland minor singles champion, now has a major adult title to complement his incredible list of underage triumphs, and his future in handball continues to look bright.
After Shane and Sean had secured their famous victory on Saturday, to emulate the success of Conor McElduff and Johnny Woods in the very same competition twelve months ago, Tyrone then picked up the All-Ireland under-21 doubles title with another impressive win over Kilkenny.
It turned out to be yet another superb All-Ireland win for Johnny Woods who has gathered up so many honours in recent seasons at minor, under-21 and intermediate level, not to mention his record breaking world championship successes almost two years ago.
And it was a thoroughly deserved gold medal for Johnny’s doubles partner Ryan Mullan, the reigning Ulster under-21 champion in both the 40×20 and 60×30 codes.
Johnny and Ryan have always teamed up brilliantly, and they added to their All-Ireland minor championship success of three years ago with a convincing win over Kilkenny on Saturday.
After beating the title favourites, Clare, in their semi-final, nothing was going to stop the Carrickmore/Breacach partnership in the All-Ireland final and they produced a top performance to take the under-21 doubles title back to Tyrone for the third time.
So overall the All-Ireland 40×20 championships for 2017 have served up two All-Ireland juvenile championship successes, courtesy of Lorcan McBride, Caitlin Conway and Elizabeth McGarvey, along with two adult singles titles thanks to Eilise McCrory and Kenny Curran, and now two of the biggest doubles titles on the national roll of honour.
All-Ireland 40×20 Doubles Championship Finals
Intermediate: Tyrone (Shane O Neill & Sean Kerr) beat Kilkenny (Ciaran Neary & Brendan Burke) 219-21, 21-19, 21-5
Under-21: Tyrone (Johnny Woods & Ryan Mullan) beat Kilkenny (Brian Mahon & Emmet Landy) 21-19, 21-13
Silver Masters B: Kilkenny (Willie Holden & David Bourke) beat Tyrone (Kenny Curran & Finbarr Fullen)
Ladies Junior B: Roscommon (Siobhan Tully & Linda Connolly) beat Tyrone (Michelle Warren & Cloideach Donaghy) 21-4, 21-2
YOUNG TYRONE STARS SETTING OFF FOR GALWAY
The last big national weekend event on the 40×20 calendar will take place this weekend in Galway and there will be a strong Tyrone representation heading off again to challenge for honours at the 2017 Irish junior nationals.
This prestigious event last year witnessed unprecedented success for the county when a record breaking four national grade A titles were claimed on finals day in Moycullen, courtesy of Johnny Woods, Sean Kerr, Antoin Fox and Mairead Fox.
Johnny Woods has since moved on to adult level, while Antoin Fox is currently starring for the Tyrone minor football team, but Sean Kerr and Mairead Fox will again be among the Tyrone stars aiming for glory at the junior nationals, although both players are stepping up to a higher age group.
Apart from Sean and Mairead, Tyrone will have other serious challengers for some of the big prizes on offer in Galway this weekend, including recent All-Ireland under-16 championship medalists, Lorcan McBride and Caitlin Conway.
Lorcan will be favourite to add the boys 15 & under national title to his ever growing collection of honours, while Caitlin will be a big contender for the girls 15 & under title along with her clubmate Mairead Fox.
Also in the running for some of the big prizes in Galway will be recent All-Ireland under-14 girls championship finalist, Clodagh Munroe, and former junior nationals gold medallist, Eilise McCrory, who will be hoping to go a step further in the 19 and under grade than she did last year.
A total of 23 players from three Tyrone clubs will feature in the junior nationals this weekend which will see action at eleven different venues across County Galway, culminating in some high quality finals on Sunday evening in Moycullen.
IRISH 40×20 JUNIOR NATIONALS 2017
Tyrone representatives in Galway…
Boys 11 & Under: Fionn McCrory, Ruairi McCullagh, Eoin Donaghy, Padraig McDonald, Senan Munroe, Shea Munroe, Thomas Duff, Padraig Fox
Boys 13 & Under: Jack Darcy
Boys 13 & Under B: Eoin McElholm, Conor Owens, Gary McAleer
Boys 13 & Under B Plate: Conor Fox, Ronan Fox
Boys 15 & Under: Lorcan McBride
Boys 15 & Under Plate: Caolan McCartan
Boys 19 & Under: Sean Kerr
Girls 13 & Under: Clóda Nic Con Midhe, Clodagh Munroe
Girls 15 & Under: Caitlin Conway, Mairead Fox
Girls 17 & Under: Michaela McCartan
Girls 19 & Under: Eilise McCrory
Meanwhile, the last juvenile county finals of 2017 took place in Beragh last weekend and there was success for Pomeroy, Loughmacrory, Carrickmore and the home club Breacach as the concluding juvenile doubles finals were staged.
TYRONE JUVENILE 40×20 DOUBLES FINALS:
Boys Under-10 doubles final: Sean Kennedy & Ryan McCallan (Pomeory) beat Eoghain Mullan & Cahir Owens (Breacach)
Girls Under-10 doubles final: Keeva Owens & Cara McCrory (Breacach) beat Laura Duff & Lucy McCullagh (Loughmacrory)
Boys Under-12 doubles final: Eoin McElholm & Padraig McDonald (Loughmacrory) beat Eoin Donaghy & Ruairi McCullagh (Loughmacrory)
Boys Under-14 doubles final: Jonathan Owens & Ciaran McNally (Breacach) beat Gary McAleer & Zak Devine (Loughmacrory)
Girls Under-14 doubles final: Clodagh Munroe & Aoibheann Daly (Carrickmore) beat Bronagh McWilliams & Kerry McNamee (Breacach)