It was a fresh, early morning start on Friday last for a team of eight Handballers who travelled to both Garryhill and Tinryland in Carlow to represent the County in Leinster Cuman na mBunscol. The team consisted of two players from Gaelscoil an Mhuilinn and six players from St. Colmcille’s N.S, Gainstown; Jack Ó Casaide (Boys Senior Singles), Conor Matthews and Enrico Patrizi (Boys Senior Doubles), Darragh Hannon (Substitute for Boys Singles & Doubles), Chloe Ní Casaide (Girls Junior Singles), Katie Burke (Girls Senior Singles), Chloe and Emma Finneran and Sophie Farrell (Girls Senior Doubles).
First up for Westmeath was Chloe Ní Casaide (Girls Junior Singles) facing Offaly’s, Lily Johnson. Chloe kicked off the action and racked up a lot of aces with her tremendous left corner serve. She managed to pair this with some great returns and had some fantastic rallies to take the match on a scoreline of 11-7 and 11-3, progressing Westmeath to the Girls Junior Semi-Final.
Chloe was followed by our Girls Senior rep, Katie Burke who competed against Kildare’s Ellie Ní Ghriffin in the quarter final. While it took a few moments to get going, there was some impressive handball on display as Katie managed to rack up seven points in game one. Although Katie managed to continue with her consistent and powerful serve, it wasn’t quite enough on this occasion with Kildare advancing to the semi-finals on a score line of 11-7, 11-5.
Next up was Enrico Patrizi and Conor Matthews who stepped on court to play Dublin’s Sean Coyne and Daire Walsh in the boy’s senior quarter final. Darragh Hannon was on hand and completed the compulsory pep talk with great enthusiasm before the match. The lads kicked off the action with a superb three wall serve round the back wall. Enrico managed a few kills, while Conor nabbed some great returns with his diving. It was certainly a tight match with the pair narrowly losing out on a scoreline of 11-10, 11-8.
Our girls’ senior doubles pairing, Emma Finneran & Sophie Farrell took to the court only moments later to take on Dublin’s, Ciara O’Reilly & Evie McCarthy. The Westmeath ladies held their own against an experienced Dublin duo with Sophie managing some fantastic left corner returns and Emma’s on point tight to the wall right serve gaining them some aces. Although they played great, it just wasn’t their day as the quarter final finished on a scoreline of 11-8 and 11-6.
We returned to the girl’s junior grade for Chloe’s Semi-final where she played Kilkenny’s Faye Murphy. Chloe played extremely well in her semi-final. She was up against a very strong Kilkenny opponent and gave it her best shot. Unfortunately, it was to be, but Chloe won over the crowd with her positive attitude, guts and determination to get to every shot. Chloe bowed out of this year’s event on a scoreline of 11-4, 11-8 but remains eligible for next year.
Then came the infamous Jack Ó’Casaide in the boy’s senior singles. While Jack’s serve was on point down to that left corner gaining him some aces, Aaron Brennan of Laois proved too powerful on the day. Jack retrieved some amazing hard got back wall serves and the rallies on display were applauded by the crowd. Ultimately, it wasn’t to be as Westmeath bowed out of the Semi Finals on a great scoreline of 11-6, 11-7.
After a long journey home, the players were greeted by friends and family in the Mullingar Handball Club where they were presented with their County Cuman na mBunscol medals by Mr. Derek Butler (Chairman, Cuman na mBunscol, Iarmhí) and Robbie McCarthy Jnr. (Chairman, Westmeath GAA Handball). Congratulations to each and every one of the players who represented the County with pride. They are a fantastic group of children who displayed nothing but great effort and respect and are a credit to their schools.
A big thanks must go to both Mr. Glynn of St. Colcmille’s and Mr. Feiritéar of Gaelscoil an Mhuilinn for their support and organisation. We must also thank Aoife McCarthy who held coaching sessions for the team and travelled alongside their teachers and parents to the Leinsters. Thank you to the parents that travelled to training and competitions and the players for their efforts and dedication to training outside of school. We thank Liam in Mullingar Handball Club for having the court and kitchen open and looking after us with court time to host the County Cuman na mBunscol and coaching sessions in the lead up to the Leinster event. Finally, a massive thank you to Cuman na mBunscol Iarmhí who went above and beyond for the team with the provision of gear and travel for the Leinster event. Sincere thanks to all who made it happen!