GAA HANDBALL: Irish Junior National Squad decided
The Official Irish Junior Squad, who will travel to San Diego for the US Junior Nationals next month, has now been decided after some exciting action at the Junior Nationals in Kingscourt, Cavan yesterday.
Monaghan's Darren Doherty will make his first appearance in an Irish jersey following an 11-4 tiebreaker victory over surprise package, Carlow's Martin Mullins, in the 15 and Under A Final. Doherty edged the first game 21-20, and the second game was equally competitive with Mullins winning 21-18 before the Monaghan man pushed into top gear in the decider to win 11-2.
Cork's Killian Carroll laid down his intentions for a future on the senior stage, with a 21-10, 21-3 win over Kildare's Niall O'Connor in the 17 and Under A Final. Despite playing some of his best handball over the weekend, O'Connor had no answers for the Rebel, as he killed clinically and showed amazing diversity in his game. Carroll was also at the US Juniors last year, and that experience is certain to stand to him next month.
In the Boy's 19 and Under A Final, a cracking game was served up by Tyrone's Caolan Daly and Mayo's Stephen Cooney, with both players leaving everything they had on the court. The first game was a tense, hard-fought battle, with Daly getting the break at the right moment to finish the game 21-19. Cooney took control in the second, winning 21-13, but it was the tiebreaker that grabbed everyone's attention. Daly took an early lead, but once leveled at 6-6, it was ace for ace to 9-9 before Daly pulled off an amazing right corner kill to hit 10 and after a long rally, took the game 11-9 to seal his place on an Irish team for the first time.
The Girls 15 and Under A Finals was one of the best of the weekend, with Roscommon's Lauren O'Riordan and Galway's Ciana Ní Churraoin renewing rivalries once more. O'Riordan settled into his sway from the outset and rattled off aces to open a big gap early on, but the Inverin lady kept battling, eventually losing out 21-9. In the second game, O'Riordan once again found herself with a big lead, but notching off the points, Ní Churraoin came back into the game and at 19-19, it looked like a tiebreaker was on the cards. The inform O'Riordan, however, stuck to her guns and hit two more aces to seal her spot on the Irish Squad, avenging last year's defeat to the Galway girl.
Cork's Catriona Casey was in devastating form in the Girls 17 and Under A Final, where she recorded an emphatic victory over fellow Ballydesmond clubmate, Aisling O'Keeffe. It was all one-way traffic in both games, and the precision finishing of Casey proved the difference. To her credit, O'Keeffe never stopped battling throughout both games, but Casey was on a mission and has once again sealed her Irish Squad spot.
In the Girl's 19 and Under Final, Down's Lorraine Havern and Wicklow's Shauna Hilley went to battle, just a few months after their cracking intermediate All-Ireland 40x20 showdown. Havern edged out Hilley in the tiebreaker on that occasion, but in the Junior Nationals showdown, Havern dominated and gave little opportunity to Hilley to gain the upper hand. In the first game, Havern's serve was granting some easy aces, but Hilley never gave up and was well equipped to battle in the rally, showing great power and poise on shots. Havern finished strongly, eventually winning out 21-10, 21-10.
Following their victories, the squad met up with team manager, Mayo's Joe McCann and assistant manager, Kerry's Ashley Prendiville as details of their training plan for the coming weeks were discussed. The team will train have two sessions prior to their departure, with the USHA Junior Nationals getting underway on December 26th.