ALLEY CHAT with Antóin Ó Braoin Feb 2nd

ALLEY CHAT with Antóin Ó Braoin


Buggy and Hynes Continue To Set The Standards


You could look at it and say it reflects poorly on the overall quality within Wexford when two players who are eligible for the masters (40 and over) grade have again qualified for the county 40×20 senior singles final, or you could say that the high standards exhibited by Gavin Buggy, St. Josephs and Tommy Hynes, St. Mary’s continues to set them apart as sportsmen of the highest calibre in a game of unrelenting pace and passion. It’s safe to say that few would argue with the latter viewpoint as not only are these two extraordinary athletes head and shoulders over everybody else in Wexford, they also continue to be ultra-competitive at senior level nationally.


That competitiveness was again evident at Coolgreany on Wednesday of last week when the combative duo simply refused to accept defeat against two of the Willoughby brothers, Johnny and Jerome, who simply were not allowed sing the last verse in a pulsating tie that kept spectators enthralled throughout. The Wicklow players are renowned for their singing ability as part of the famous Willoughby Brothers, but they are terrific handballers as well and for much of this tie they held the edge in a match of fluctuating fortunes.


The early stages were dominated by the Wexfordmen as they forged into a 14-6 lead, but they failed to add to their tally as Wicklow came up with one very productive service game which turned the tie on its head and saw the Garden County men go on to win the opener by 21-14.  That pattern continued in the second as the workrate and brilliance of both the Willoughby’s saw them race into a 13-5 lead before Buggy and Hynes slowly began to rein them in.  At 18-15 in favour of Wicklow it still looked as if the Wexfordmen were on their way out but it was then we saw what it is about these terrific players that has sustained them for so long and has earned them the respect of everybody in the game. A mere sniff of the winning post was all they needed and although staring down the barrel of a Wicklow gun they proceeded to play their best handball of the game to put in a storming finish for a 21-18 win.


Any prediction of what might happen in the deciding third game really ought to have been influenced by the relative ages of those taking part in this energy sapping encounter but it was here that the much older Buggy and Hynes showed just why they are still regarded as one of the most formidable partnerships in the game. Playing at an intensity their rivals could not match, the Wexford town men simply squeezed the life out of their much younger opponents as they battled for every ball as if their life depended on it.  It was glorious and somewhat brutal all at once and when the last ball had rolled out to end the tie it Buggy and Hynes who were celebrating a  sensational 21-5 victory. It was yet another glorious chapter in the careers of these history making handballers for whom neither age nor time has any meaning.


Earlier in the week Buggy had qualified for his eighth county 40×20 final in succession by beating Peter McGrath, Coolgreany by a facile 21-5, 21-2 while Hynes had an equally comfortable 21-11, 21-7 victory over another Coolgreany player, Darren O’Toole in the second semi-final.


A hat trick of wins for Templeudigan players was the highlight of last weekend’s county B singles finals played at several venues around the county. For Siobhan Elms in girls under 14 it and Daniel Kelly in boys under 16, victory was very special as it secured them a place on the Wexford team for the upcoming Leinster championship. A third win for Jason O’Neill in boys under 15 made it a bumper weekend for the club. The full results were as follows;

Boys under 11 Plate        Rurdhán Redmond  (Coolgreany) beat Rory Devereux (St. Martins)

Boys under 12                   Cian Byrne (Bridgetown) beat Michael Gaynor (Ballymitty)

Boys under 14                   Michael Curran (St. Josephs) beat Robert Cogley (Ballymitty)

Boys under 15                   Jason O’Neill (Templeudigan) beat Jack Hendrick (Bridgetown)

Boys under 16                   Daniel Kelly (Templeudigan) beat Gavin Connolly (Templeudigan)

Girls under 14                  Siobhan Elms (Templeudigan) beat Andrea Carley (St. Josephs)


The remaining B finals will be played on the weekend of 15-16th February along with the premier A finals.


Last weekend saw a hugely successful weekend to London for the young players of St. Josephs Handball Club in Wexford town. The victorious party of 54 returned home on yesterday (Monday) with a plethora of titles form the UK Open and a full report will be available for next weekend’s newspapers.