Killshots from 13th April 2006
1934 - 1999
History of Ballina Handball Club
Handball is one of the oldest games played with a ball. It dates back to the Tailteann Games which were held in Teltown Co.Meath when Luighaidh Lamhfadha was high king of Ireland some 1800 years before the Christian era. From these games handball was taken back by the French , the Spaniards and the Greeks and it was so popular with the latter that it was played by them at the first Olympic held by them some 500 years after the first Tailteann Games.
Though many accounts of handball were written down the years the earliest known depiction of the game in Ireland is a painting “Castle Blaney”painted by John Nixon in 1785 and is held in the Monaghan Museum.
Every Village in Ireland had a court or makeshift court and “the gatherings “ as they were known would take place especially on a Sunday afternoon.Stakes were played for , side bets taken and games could go on for hours until the final shout “game ball”signalled the final ace and end.
Ballina and the locality had many places where these ‘Gatherings ‘ took place. The old Railway Station , the Bakery wall and the old Schoolyard in Killaloe were some of the most popular venues. Local players travelled to Ogonnelloe and also to Tuamgraney courts where many challenges took place and many fine players displayed their skills.
The Ballalley at Grange road was erected by Hugh O’Brien a wellknown Trader and Shopkeeper who hailed from Monaghan. He travelled to Dublin to see the Depot Court in the Phoenix Park the top venue at the time . He employed two local craftsmen Jack Barry and Tom Rafferty to build a replica of that court and to this day is highly praised as one of the top venues in the Country. The Court was opened in 1934 with an exhibition game between the Ayres brothers from Nenagh and Anthony Collins and Paddy Mulcahy from Ballina. This was the first official game of handball played in Ballina.
The biggest influence on Handball in Ballina was the extraordinary success of the Hassett brothers in Nearby Nenagh who won 5 consecutive Senior Doubles All-Ireland Softball titles from 1934 to 1938.
The year after the Court was opened Ballina won their first Championship when they won the North Tipperary team of 6 in 1935. Top players at that time were Anthony Collins, Connie Collins, Matt Rohan, Tom Manly, John Joe Gleeson, Paddy Mulcahy & Mick Mc.Carthy. Top juveniles at the time were Colm Quigley & Jack Collins.
The following year in 1936 Connie & Anthony Collins won the County Junior Doubles title. Following their County final win they were invited to play in a Tournament in Limerick . An objection was placed against them for taking part in this tournament by the Shamrock Club in Nenagh & and they were replaced in the championship by Joe Bergin & Mixie Gormon who went on to win the All -Ireland title.
In 1938 Connie & Anthony were more determined than ever and they trained with the Hassetts of Nenagh and went on to win the Clubs first All-Ireland title by winning the Junior doubles softball title.
They had now entered the Senior ranks and in 1939 they caused a major upset by putting an end to the Hassetts reign when they beat them in one of the greatest games of handball ever played. The eager students had now conquered their masters.They reached the All-Ireland final where they were beaten by J.J.Gilmartin & Jesper Dunne From Kilkenny Who were to dominate the Senior Doubles and win Three titles in a row.
After a two year break in Competitive handball Connie & Anthony made a return in 1942 to win the County title and they went on to contest the senior All- Ireland Title .This was an unique final as the Sligo pair that they met were two Tipperary men Joe & Stephen Bergin. The Ballina pair came out on top to win the All-Ireland Senior Softball Doubles title by three games to one. That same year Anthony Collins went on to win the All-Ireland Challenge Trophy.
Anthony Then emigrated to England and his place was taken by his younger brother Jack. In 1947 Connie & Jack won the County final and went on to reach the All-Ireland final.
While training for this final Jack damaged his hand and they failed to get the game posponed. On the 21st. of September 1947 in the Depot court in Dublin they were beaten in the final by Joe Bergin & J.O’Rourke representing Sligo.
Ten years later Connie & Jack won the Senior Softball Doubles county title. That same year Connie defeated Joe Bergin in the County senior singles final. This was to be the last Senior title and the end of a great era in the Club.
During this time Connie was very prominent in the Army championships which had some of the top players in the country at that time competing. Representing the Southern Command Connie won All-Army titles winning the S.S.D. titles in 1939 ,1948 & runner up in 1952.In the Singles Championship Connie was runner up in 1939 & went on to win the Singles title in 1948 to win both Singles & doubles in the same year.
In 1954 Gael Linn introduced a complete new idea of time games the winner being decided on who was ahead on aces after 30 minutes of play. Hundreds of entries were received for this competition and after playing off in 8 different groups the group winners were brought together to a central venue where they played off in one day to decide the final winner. Connie Collins reached the final where he was beaten by John Ryan of Wexford. Connie as runner up received on that first year a replica of the Gael Linn Cup.
The late 50’s also saw the formation of a handball club in Killaloe - St.Mary’s Handball Club. Fr.John Greed who was Chairman of the Clare Handball board was transferred to Killaloe in 1955. The following year a Handball club was formed and consisted of President Archdeacon Molloy P.P.
Chairman Seamus O’Connor, Secretary Fr.Greed C.C., Treasures Michael Grimes. The most notable victories for the Club were in Juvenile singles & Doubles where Michael Grimes defeated Joe Kirby in the singles County final and went on to win the doubles partnered by Michael Winkle beating Joe Kirby & Eddie Hogan. Sadly the Club played its last Championship games in 1958 when they were represented by Michael Grimes ,Michael Winkle & Michael Kenneally thus marking the end of handball in Killaloe.
The 1950’s was a time when a lot of players left Ballina parish in search of work, many emigrating to England, America & Canada.
In 1961 Some of the young players started to make an impact in the Championships and Michael Murphy reached an All-Ireland Minor singles final but was defeated by Dick Lyng of Wexford . In 1966 Juvenile Handball received a big boost when the 60x30 juvenile All- Ireland championships were held for the first time under the auspices of the Willwood Tailteann Foundation. Ballina had very strong Juvenile players at that time and reached the All-Ireland finals in U.14 Doubles & U.16 Singles & U.16 Doubles.Geddy Mc.Keogh & Joe Kelly were beaten in the U.14 Final by Mickey Walsh & A. Jameson of Roscommon. In the U.16 Singles Anthony Carey won the All-Ireland U.16 Singles title beating Pat Murphy of Wexford. On the same day Anthony Partnered by Paddy Kelly also won U.16 Doubles All-Ireland title.
Anthony continued to be our best player at that time and reached the u.21 All-Ireland final in 1970 . Soon after that final Anthony retired from Handball and was a great loss to the Club and to Handball that such a great player was lost to the game at such a young age.Other prominent players during the 60,s were Mossy Darcy , Pat Mulcahy, Michael Kelly, John Riordan, Noel Collins, Connie Collins, Peter Riordan,Gerome Riordan, P.J.Carey, Michael Carey, Sean Murphy,Michael Mc.Keogh , Seamus & Michael Fitzgerald. Although many North, County & Provincial were won nobody could make the breakthrough to win an All-Ireland.A Shield was presented to the North Board By Connie & Anthony Collins for the promotion of Handball for Novice players in 1966 and this competition is still alive to this day. In 1968 3 sets of Brothers from Ballina won this Shield, Geddy & Michael Mc,Keogh, Peter & John Riordan & Noel & Connie Collins. Juveniles at that time included Liam Ryan, John Ryan (Station Hse.) Gerard Mc.Keogh, Paddy Collins, Paddy Mc.Keogh.
In 1971 Michael Ryan won an U12 singles All-Ireland title. John Ryan & Timmy Collins won All-Ireland Silver Medals.
In 1972 the Ballcourt was covered and a very hard working committee insured handball could be played all year round in all weathers.The committee at that time consisted of Pat Mulcahy , Paddy O’Brien, Michael Mc.Keogh, Tom Ahearne ,Connie Collins, Anthony Collins, Pat Gleeson, Sean Fenneally, Jack Manly, Geddy Mc.Keogh
The Official opening of the Court was marked by the hosting of the Coca Cola S.S.S. Championships. The president of the Handball Council Joe Lynch attended and players such as Pat Kirby , Peadar Hughs, Murty McEllisterim, Dan Kirby, Pat Mc.Garry & Paddy Reilly displayed their skills on the day.
The untimely death of Connie Collins R.I.P. in 1977 was a big blow to the club and one of the great ambassadors of Tipperary sport was lost to the community.
In 1978 Willie Bourke & Brendan Ryan Reached the All-Ireland U.13 Doubles Final where they were beaten by J.Doyle & M.Purcell of Kilkenny. In 1980 Anthony Lyons reached the Munster final in U.12 Doubles. Another very promising Juvenile player at that time was Dominic Kelly who won several Provincial titles and appeared on television in the juvenile Top Ace competition.
The 80’s started off with the loss of Michael Mc.Keogh R.I.P. after a tragic accident . Michael had worked tirelessly over the years especially with the juveniles and at the very young age of 39 was a major loss to the Club.
Geddy Mc. Keogh & Michael Gleeson reached the All-Ireland finals in 40x20 Novice doubles in 1980 & 1982 but were defeated on both occasions. In 1983 Martin Mc.Inerney reached the All-Ireland final in U.12 singles but was narrowly defeated by Kilkenny in the final. Martin teamed up with Declan White from Cashel and went on to win the U.14 All-Ireland 60x30 Title. Martin continued to improve and was the first Tipperary player to win the U.16 40x20 singles All-Ireland title beating Graham O’ Brien from Kilkenny in the final. After that win Martin was selected as the Munster Councils Sports Star of the Month.
The 80’s saw a lot of players taking part in Novice competitions and we won Novice team of 4 , Shamrock Trophy and Collins shield competitions. Novice players who were playing at that time were Alan Deane, Paddy Collins, Paddy Coleman,John Gleeson, Pat Gleeson, Alfie Monaghan, John Hamilton, Con Lynch, Jim Darcy, Paddy Flannery, Sean Fennelly, Con Lynch,Mick Fitzpatrick, John Minogue, Larry Flanagan, Jack Manly, Jimmy Hanly, Jamesie Riordan, Paddy Coonan, Patrick O’Grady, Paddy Mc.Keogh, Pat Grace , Pat Rohan,Michael Scanlon, Jack Hogan & Charles O;Connor & many more.
From 1981 - 1984 Tom Ahearne served as Munster Council Chairman and together with Fellow Tipperary man Michael Tyrell Secretary of the Munster Council they were highly regarded for the great work they achieved during their term of office . The eighties also saw the final link with the great days gone by with the passing away of Anthony Collins R.I.P. in 1985.
The Club Had many fine officials which is one of the great strengths of the Ballina club. In the Early years Ged Collins was Club & County Secretary and Willie Collins was also a very dedicated club official. Tony Mc.Inerney was club Secretary and also Chairman of the North Tipperary Board . He was a top juvenile coach and put in a lot of work to keep the game alive in the parish. John Gleeson gave many years service as Club Chairman & also served as Secretary of the North Board.
Due to work & domestic commitments John Gleeson & Tony Mc. Inerney after many years of service stepped down as Club officials and a new Committee of Chairman Paddy Collins, Secretary Margaret Coleman ,& Treasurer Geddy Mc.Keogh took over. Their first task and was to upgrade the facilities and thanks to voluntary help from local tradesmen by the end of 1991. With a new lighting system, showers and a top class playing court the Club was soon to host County, Munster & All – Ireland finals throughout the nineties.
In 1992 Majella Grace was elected Secretary of the club and with outgoing Chairman Paddy Collins & Treasurer Geddy Mc.Keogh re elected they set about promoting Juvenile Handball in the Club. He introduction of a Fas scheme in the Parish was to play a major role in the development of the Club . The Handball Club played a major role in the running of the Fas scheme with Paddy Collins as Chairman & Geddy Mc.Keogh, John Minogue & Majella Grace very active Committee members. The Club now had the benefit of having Coaches available during the day and Pat Gleeson, Michael Collins, Chris Hickey & Gloria Mc.Keogh put in great work over the next few years along with existing coaches Geddy Mc.Keogh & Paddy Collins.
Pat Gleeson was elected Club Juvenile officer and was also elected as County Juvenile team Coach. Outside of the great work Pat put in with the Club through the Fas scheme he also put in a lot of time & effort in promoting Juvenile Handball in the County. This was to spark off a very successful run for both Club and County.
In 1991 the club entered a Float in the St.Patricks Day Parade and won the overall prize for best Float .In 1992 our Novice players won The Novice team of Four, The Shamrock Trophy & The Collins Shield the first time a Club won all three in the one year.The Novice team of four was Paddy Collins, Paddy Coleman, Alan Deane & Michael Carey Jnr. The Shamrock Trophy team was Pat Mc.Carthy, Pascal Hickey, Anthony Deane, Pat Gleeson, John Minogue & Michael Carey Jnr. The Collins Shield team was Paddy Coleman, Paddy Collins, Alan Deane, Michael Collins, Michael Carey Jnr. & Anthony Deane.
Paul Coleman & Graham Quirke from the Silvermines won a Munster u.13 60x30 Doubles Title.
In 1993 a long awaited All – Ireland title came to the Club when Geddy Mc.Keogh partnered by Ken Conway from Clonmel won the Masters B doubles 60x30 title beating Sean Fitzgerald & Pat Savage from Kilkenny in the final.
Our juveniles began to dominate the North & County championships and in 1994 the County u.12 \ u.13 team won the All – Ireland title with David Collins, David Hickey & Noel Moroney from Ballina & Brian Darcy,Shane Spillane from Nenagh & Kevin Dempsey from Clonmel making up the team. We made our first appearance at the Community games in Mosney and Coach Pat Gleeson with his team of David Collins, Kevin Kennedy, Paul Grace, Shane Hickey, David Hickey & Noel Moroney Brought back Silver medals.
We continued to win prizes each year in the St.Patricks Day Parade and in 1995 we won the best overall float once again. Our Juveniles continued to improve and in 1995 we had a Boys u.13 & a Girls U.13 team qualify for the Community games finals in Mosney. Both teams brought back Gold medals from the games. The Boys team consisted of Kevin Kennedy, Paul Grace, Enda Mc.Keogh, Noel Moroney, David Hickey & Shane Hickey. The Girls team was Tracy Coonan, Aoife Hickey, Marian Coleman, Maria Hickey, Aisling Horan, & Nicola Moroney.
In 1995 in 60x30 the County u.12\ u.13 team took All Ireland honours with Ballina players David Hickey, Noel
Moroney, Shane Hickey, Kevin Kennedy, Paul Grace, &
Brian Darcy from Nenagh making up the team. 1995 saw another All-Ireland title come to the Club when Connie Collins partnered by Jim Ryan from the Silvermines won the All – Ireland 60x30 Silver Masters B Doubles title. In 1996 Paul Coleman won the U.17 singles 40x20 All – Ireland title . Paul went on to win the Golden Gloves in U.17 Grade in Belfast. Geddy Mc.Keogh teamed up with Vincent O’Shea from Lahorna and they won the Silver Masters A 60x30 Doubles All – Ireland title. Each year we were gaining All – Ireland success and 1997 was to see us continue our successful run with David Hickey & Noel Moroney Winning the All – Ireland U.15 40x20 doubles title. Players of great promise sadly both players retired soon after this great win. This was to prove our most successful year of the decade with our Juveniles both Boys & Girls winning North, County & Munster Titles. In 40x20 u.12 \ u.13 County Juvenile Team of Gerard Coonan, Enda Mc.Keogh, Niall Collins, & Gerry O,Brien Ballina , M.J.Meaney & Darragh Lyons from Ballyporeen & Shane Mc.Grath from Ballinahinch won the All – Ireland title. We had 3 teams qualify for the Community Games finals and we won Gold in Girls U.13 and Boys U.15 and Silver medals in Boys u.13 . It was a great achievement for a small parish to bring back 12 Gold & 6 Silver medals from the Community Games All – Ireland finals. The Girls U.13 team was Marian Coleman, Aisling Horan, Aoife Hickey, Maria Hickey, Karen Collins & Nicola Moroney.. The Boys U.15 team was David Hickey, Kevin Kennedy, Shane Hickey, Noel Moroney, Paul Grace & Thomas Manly. The Boys U.13 team was Gerard Coonan, Gerry O,Brien, Niall Collins, Enda Mc.Keogh, Anthony Kennedy & Eoin Sheehy.
In 1998 Michael Gleeson & Michael Collins won the Masters B Doubles 60x30 All – Ireland title. Our first Ladies All-Ireland title came to the Club that year when under Coach Paddy Collins Tracy Coonan & Aisling Horan won the
Ladies U.14 Doubles All – Ireland title beating Roscommon
in Roscommon. This was the first time Tipperary had won an
U.14 Ladies title .Tracy & Aisling reached the All – Ireland final in the 40x20 U.14 Doubles but were narrowly beaten by Roscommon in Croke Park.
We entered a very young team in the U.16 Ladies Club All – Ireland Championship and our team of Tracy Coonan,
Aisling Horan, Marian Coleman, Karen Collins & Geraldine Horan won Bronze medals in the finals.
We entered both boys and girls teams in Feile na Gael & Gerard Coonan won the skills competition . In Community games our U.15 Girls team with Coach Cliona Collins travelled to Mosney & brought back Bronze medals. The team was Tracy Coonan, Aisling Horan,Marian Coleman & Sarah Conroy.
In 1999 we captured an All – Ireland once again when Mick Fitzpatrick won the Emerald Masters B Singles 60x30 All – Ireland title. We also continued our great run in Community games Handball when our U.13 Boys team under Coach Connie Collins won Gold Medals . The team was Gerard Coonan, Declan Gleeson, Declan Kennedy, Fergal Collins, & Thomas Grace. Gerard Coonan represented Ireland in the 1 wall European team championships held in Dungarvin Co.Waterford. Ger was outstanding throughout the Tournament and the Irish team were crowned European Champions for 1999.ger competed in U.14 singles 60x30 and won the Munster title but was beaten in the All – Ireland semi-final by Kilkenny.
In the Gael Linn mixed doubles U.13 competition Ger coonan & Karen Collins put in a great display in O’Loughlins court in Kilkenny and won silver medals where they were narrowly beaten by Kerry in the final .Our girls competed in the U.16 team competition in both 40x20 & 60x30. In the 40x20 they won the bronze medals and in the 60x30 after a great display they won the silver medals. The team was Tracy Coonan, Aisling Horan, Marian Coleman, Cliona Collins & Karen Collins.
In the College finals Tracy Coonan & Aoife Hickey won the All- Ireland in U.15 Doubles.Marian Coleman reached the All-Ireland final in U.15 Singles.In the Ladies Championships Karen Collins won her 3rd. Munster title in a row in both 40x20 & 60x30 . Marian Coleman won the Munster title in U.14 Singles and reached the All – Ireland final where she was beaten by Wicklow. In 40x20 Marian teamed up with Siobhan Doherty from the Silvermines and they reached the All – Ireland final. In U.16 singles Tracy Coonan won the Munster title and reached the All – Ireland semi-final. Cliona Collins won the U.17 60x30 Munster title and reached the All – Ireland semi-final.Declan Kennedy & Karen Collins won the U.12 Juvenile Munster title and together with Marian Coleman & Danielle O’Connell from Hollyford they were selected from Munster to give exhibition games before the Senior Doubles finals in Croke Park. We travelled to Feile na Gael in Wexford with a boys and a girls team and gerard Coonan won the Skills competition for the 2nd. Year in a row.
Our Juvenile Officer together with Coaches Geddy Mc.Keogh, Paddy Collins, Margaret Coleman, Paddy Coleman,Cliona Collins & Catriona Ryan have established one of the top juvenile Clubs in the Country and they hope to continue with the great success of the Club into the New Millenium. Our Court and grounds are well kept thanks to the work put in by Joseph Neary.
Our Committee that saw us through a very successful 90’s era of Chairman Paddy Collins, V.Chairman Paddy Coleman, Secretary Majella Grace ,Treasurer Geddy Mc.Keogh & present Juvenile Officer Connie Collins look forward to continued success for the Club long into the future.
In conclusion Handball is an eye quickening and scientific Game. It was once described as a beautiful combination of safe, bodily, and mental exercise; the eye sees, the mind directs, and the hand executes. It is one of the safest of all games and scarcely a muscle in the body but gets healthful exercise. Handball can even boast of a Saint as we can read in the life of St.Cuthbert that “he played atte handballe withe the children that his fellowes were.”
The following prayer sums up each handballers wish.
Let me Play the game O’Lord,
Help me do my best.
But win or lose ,I thank you for
Those agonising tests
The chance to be with friends I like
Those who’ve known the thrill
The Gritty “get” the classic pass
And most of all the “kill”
I,ve seen those wistful eyes that watch
Wishing they were me
Those who gave their all until
The back, the arm , the knee.
You've got a lot of things to tend
But if its all the same