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posted 23 Jan 2017, 13:01 by Sean Foley
 Monday, 09th Jan 2017

By Kevin Mulligan

The eight annual John Gaffney Memorial Handball Tournament, proudly sponsored by Drury Oils Ltd., took place this weekend in Ballaghaderreen and St Coman’s Roscommon handball clubs.

Now a well-established tournament with coveted ranking points on offer, large crowds turned up expecting top class fair from the excellent field. They were not disappointed.

At the finish Cork’s Killian Carroll narrowly overcame Galways’s Martin Mulkerrins in a thrilling final to claim his second Gaffney Memorial crown in front of a full house in Ballaghaderreen, as well as hundreds more watching the match live via Facebook Live.

Two crowd favourites with exciting styles of play, the meeting of Mulkerrins’s power and Carroll’s pace provided a truly astonishing spectacle of handball. Their route to the final was no less exciting.

Carroll overcame maverick Kildare player Niall O’Conner as well as Dublin’s two-time previous champion Eoin Kennedy to set up a semi-final with current champion Robbie McCarthy of Westmeath. In an absorbing match, Carroll’s spin-serves and relentless attacking play proved too much for McCarthy.

Meanwhile, Mulkerrins came through tough battles with Cork fitness fanatic Brendan Fleming and the stylish Antrim player Owen McKenna. Waiting for Mulkerrins in the semi-final was Irish number one ranked player, Armagh’s Charley Shanks. Displaying the subtleties of his game, Mulkerrins prevailed on the back of a ream of thunderous low passing shots and delicate finishes to the corners.

Beginning at a roaring pace, the final burst into life from the get go.

The Galway native set the early pace of play, using strong passing shots to get Carroll out of position and set himself up for a kill to race to a 12-1 lead.

In spite of this onslaught, Carroll kept cool and stuck to his own game. Upping the power, the Mallow clubman displayed his full arsenal of devastating serving and pass-shots to draw level at 14-14, and then take the first game 21-14.

With both players visibly fatigued in the second game, Carroll dug in and compounded the huge momentum swing from the first game to claim victory on 21-11 score line.

A terrific weekend’s handball was had by all in what was surely the most successful Gaffney Memorials to date. Ballaghaderreen handball club would like extend our sincere thanks to Drury Oils Ltd, our main tournament sponsor, as well as Regan & Sons, Gaelectric, Spells Bar, Durkin’s Hotel, Jennings Pump Services, GAA Handball Ireland, GAA Handball Connacht Council, O’Hara’s Bakery, Ros Plant Hire, McHugh’s Wholesale, Cunniffe’s Butchers, and St Coman’s Handball Club and our other sponsors and volunteers.