Johnny Woods celebrates historic All Ireland clean sweep
Few Tyrone handballers have celebrated the level of success enjoyed by Breacach’s Johnny Woods in 2014. In his unbeaten minor campaign, to date, Woods has already cemented his name in the record books by completing the All Ireland singles treble in 40×20, one wall and 60×30 softball, the first time that feat has been achieved by any player in the game. Add in the fact he is the All Ireland Minor doubles champion in the 40×20 and now has the 60×30 minor doubles decider in just under 2 weeks time and he could be set to complete the clean sweep of every title in his grade at national level in 2014 in those three codes of play.
There is no question that it is the most successful ever title challenge by a Tyrone handballer in minor handball at All Ireland level and Woods had to do it the hard way in the Minor singles final on Saturday. His opponent, Daniel Hayes (Tipperary) looked on fire in the opening game of their final at Abbeylara and it looked very ominous when the Tipperary player stormed to an opening game win by 21-4. Woods was struggling to find any momentum at that stage and in truth was chasing in every rally as Hayes took control from centre-court. Incredibly though the second game witnessed a most dramatic turnaround. The Tyrone player began to find his range impeccably with low hard passing handball down the sides and as his killshot also began to click, Woods amazingly turned the game on it’s head as he took the second by the same scoreline, 21-4.
The tie-break game actually provided the best play of all from both players but it was Hayes who regrind the initiative early on, as he raced into an early 9-1 lead. He maintained his advantage at at 11-4 before Woods edged back into the game at 9-11. But when Hayes changed his serve again to an effective lob serve and went 16-9 ahead, he was in a prominent position to see out the game. But Woods fought back again and with some spectacular retrieving in particular, he delivered ten aces without reply to go into a 19-16 lead. Hayes responded with kills to make it 19-18, and also at 20-19, but it was the Tyrone teenager who prevailed in an incredible match winning rally to seal victory and claim his place in the history books.
This was an exceptional feat by the Tyrone player. In accomplishing this success he not only became the first Tyrone handballer ever to win the prestigious All Ireland Minor 60×30 singles title but he was also the first player from Ulster to win this title in twenty years. In a period when Tyrone players have enjoyed more and more success on the national and international stage, this is a very welcome boost also for the traditional 60×30 softball game. Of course the next focus will now be the All Ireland Minor doubles final in which Johnny will partner his 40×20 doubles partner, Ryan Mullan. They will face-off against Tipperary in that final also on Saturday 27th September as they bid to make it a clean sweep of doubles title at this level in 2014 also.
McElduff chases ladies minor crown
While Johnny Woods has made the minor boys grade his own in 2014, his club colleague, Maeve McElduff, has enjoyed a similar path in the calendar year in the ladies code. McElduff began her season with an historic title win in the first ever Tyrone Ladies Senior Championship back in March and went on to add Irish Nationals 19 & Under and All Ireland minor singles and doubles championship success in the 40×20 court. She now bids to add the 60×30 Minor ladies singles crown to that roll of honour this season when she travels to Kingscourt this Saturday. Maeve will take on Kildare’s Hannah Dagg in a repeat of the 40×20 decider and it promises to be a cracking game in the Cavan venue.
Overall the hopes of Tyrone in 60×30 All Ireland adult finals has rested with Woods and McElduff. Last weekend saw the remaining challenges from the O’Neill County ended at the All Ireland semi final stages. Loughmacrory hosted the Junior B Doubles semi final as Spillane Martin and Seamus McCrory took on a very strong Wexford pairing of Miles Connors and Michael Goggins. In the end the Leinster champions ran out winners by 21-3, 21-3. Two Tyrone partnerships also travelled to Coolgreaney in Wexford but also found the home county in superlative form on the day. Conor McElduff and Pol Clarke were fancied to do well in the All Ireland Junior Doubles Championship but had a stern challenge in Wexford’s Darren O’Toole and Malachy Whelan. It proved to be a terrific battle all the same and the Tyrone players went close to edging it but lost out narrowly by 21-19, 21-13 in the end. Conor Kerr and Anthony McElduff also lost out at the same venue to Wexford opposition in the Silver Masters B Doubles semi final. Ricky Barron and Robert Doyle booked their All Ireland final place with a 21-4, 21-4 win against the Breacach clubmen.
Juvenile prepare for Ulster 60×30 Championship finals
Meanwhile the Tyrone Juvenile 60×30 handball team enjoyed another successful assault on the Ulster Juvenile 60×30 Championships. Ronan Curran had a very good win over Cavan’s Conor Owens in the Under 14 singles final and Shane Grimes defeated Cavan’s Cillian Reilly in the Boys Under 15 Singles final on Monday evening in St. Macartan’s College to complete the 2014 lineup. The following provincial champions from Tyrone will now take on Leinster in the All Ireland semi finals on 27th September:
Boys Under 14 Singles: Ronan Curran
Boys Under 14 Doubles: Antoin Fox & Cormac Munroe
Boys Under 15 Singles: Shane Grimes
Boys Under 15 Doubles: Ciaran Cuddy & Turlough Clarke
Boys Under 16 Singles: Sean Kerr
Boys Under 17 Doubles: Aaron Owens & Jack Campbell
Girls Under 14 Singles: Ciara Mullan
Girls Under 14 Doubles: Elizabeth McGarvey & Caitlin Conway
Girs Under 15 Doubles: Michaela McCartan & Emer Kerr
Girls Under 16 Singles: Eilise McCrory