John Gaffney Memorial Club, Ballaghaderreen   Report and pic by Michael McGee


Ballaghaderreen Handball Club celebrated its 25th Anniversary and especially in memory of

the late John Gaffney a founder member who was the driving force in much of Ballaghaderreen’s Handball Club success over the past 25 years.The tournament which looks set to become a

regular fixture on the Irish Handball Calender took place from Friday January 15-17th last. 

And was sponsored by Ladbrokes & Towey’s Cost-Cutter.

Lisacaul and Ballaghaderreen courts ran off the historic event.Ballaghaderreen led by Chairman Dessie Keegan pulled out all the stops and the overall organization of the event was first class. The court was warm and in pristine condition while refreshments were provided all weekend for the handball supporters some travelling more than 100 miles to the event. There was top class action on view for the capacity crowd in attendance over the full weekend. 


The quarter final contest between Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy and Antrim’s Ricky McCann was particularly memorable. McCarthy eventually winning out by 21-18, 21-12.There were also quarter final wins forMichael Gregan over Charly Shanks, Kennedy beat Gavin Buggy & Ducksy Walsh getting the better of Dessie Keegan in straight games. Irish Handball President Tony Hannon was also in attendance.

The semi-final line upseen Eoin Kennedy up against Wicklow Michael Gregan, while the “young veteran” and legendary player Michael “Ducksy” Walsh from Kilkenny was pitted against the young and prolific star in Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy Junior. In the 1st semi-final Kennedy built up a big lead of 9-0 in the opening semi against Gregan.Gregan the livewire that he is battled back well to be only 11-8 but it was the closest he was going to get as Kennedy using all his experience and court craft took the 1st game by 21-8. 

Game 2 followed in much the same vein with Kennedy racing into an 8-2 lead. Gregan mounted a firm challenge. Still he had to work extremely hard for scores as Kennedy’s positioning in centre court kept pushing Gregan towards the back wall. Gregan reduced the St. Brigid’s Club man lead to 10-7.Kennedy again opened up the Coolboy man with some great mesmerizing right sided kills and passing shots. Gregan could only add 1 further score as Kennedy finished in some style again taking game 2 by 21-8.

The second semi-final was between Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy Junior and Kilkenny’s maestro Michael Ducksy Walsh.McCarthy looked in inspired form against McCann in the quarter-final. Could the student get one over on the Master player that is Ducksy Walsh. Walsh at 44 years of age was giving 21 years to the youthful Westmeath man. McCarthy with some lightening serves to Ducksy’s right side seen him race into an 7-0 lead. Ducksy from this stellar start from McCarthy gave as good as he got and displayed flashes of his best with some exquisite kills and it was a joy to watch. McCarthy always had a comfortable lead and took game 1 by 21-14.The second game proved very entertaining with scores level at 4,6, & 9.McCarthy always had a cushion lead of 3-4 scores at any one time despite Ducksy’s best efforts. McCarthy eventually taking game 2 by 21-16.

Ballaghaderreen honour the late John Gaffney

In the girls exhibition match that followed Ballaghaderreen’s Amy Corrigan defeated Swinford’s Pauline Gallagher by 21-6, 21-17. Just before the final brothers John Junior & James Gaffney unveiled a plaque commemorating the never to be forgotten John Gaffney. John junior was reminiscent of times past re calling some great story’s of the great man. The handball fraternity present enjoying the anecdotes.Shortly afterwardspresentations were also made to Brian Colleran, Pat Carty, Eddie O’Reilly, John Flynn, Gerry O’Gara, Stephen French, John Cunniffe, Gerry Corrigan, Alex McDonald, Fr. Martin Jennings, Gerry Waldron, Vincent Brennan& Padraig Mulligan. All whom received life time membership. Every inch of the gallery was taken up with estimates of 300 people in attendance, with Dessie Keegan introducing the players to the packed gallery with standing room only. 

Kennedy inaugural winner of John Gaffney Memorial Cup

The final was a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland softball singles final with Kennedy defeating the young Westmeath man to claim his 6th title in a row.Just before the final Eunice Moran sung Amhran na bhfiann elegantly to get proceedings off on a high note.The match was played at championship pace and at high tempo throughout. At 5-5 in the opening game Kennedy playingvery confidently increased this lead to 12-5 with well executed kills on the right and one great left corner kill from the back court.McCarthy replied with 2 points of his own as Kennedy extending his lead to 15-7.McCarthy was quickly in to put away what looked like a Kennedy winner all hands down but he picked it perfectly. An attempted kill from McCarthy from the back court fell short and Kennedy was in the driving seat leading by 16-8.McCarthy showed great sportsmanship when diving in to gather a low Kennedy shot near the front wall but indicated to the referee that the ball had bounced twice.An excellent rally then ensued with both players displaying great levels of fitness early in the season with an energy sapping rally with McCarthy securing the point in the left corner 25 shots later to reduce the lead somewhat to 18-10. McCarthy’s next score showed clinical finishing when he landed an inch perfect roller from 35 feet away into the right corner. But unfortunately for McCarthy he could only add 1 further score as Kennedy closed out game 1 by 21-12.

Kennedy’s ingenuity wins the day

McCarthy tookan early 2-0 lead in the second game but was quickly reeled in by the in form Kennedy.Kennedy’s positioning in the centre was first class and he was able to dictate matters going for kills mostly in the right corner and on a number of occasions drag McCarthy to the left side and delivering delightful passing winners into the right corner.Kennedy’s ploy of being ableto cut out McCarthy’shots volleying into the right worked well.At 10-4 ahead Robbie took a time out getting instructions from Robbie McCarthy snr.McCarthy’s use of his Bradyesque style stinging serves to Kennedy’s right still has some “work in progress” on it before he perfects it.When he does it will prove a great asset in McCarthy’s armoury. Kennedy the supreme athlete that he isdrove on from here only allowing McCarthy 4 more scores and became the first winner of the John Gaffney Memorial Cup with an impressive 21-8 win in game 2.Before the presentations commenced Dessie Keegan thanked all who made it such a great occasion for the club and National Handball ManagerChris Curran spoke about clubs as Ballaghaderreen as the bedrock of the Association and warmly praised the late John Gaffney whom he described as an “iconic figure in Irish Handball”.Already the Irish Handball season is off to a flyer and if the rest of the year is anything like the John Gaffney Memorial Invitational Cup. All of Irish Handball can look forward to another exceptional year in the sport.