The All-Ireland Open Club title returned to the West of Ireland last weekend with Ballaghaderreen taking down former winners Gort Na Mona in emphatic style.
Gort Na Mona’s combination of Ricky McCann, Paddy Crothers, John McGarry, Eddie Mallon and Paul Graham had shown good promise in their dismissal of Leinster champions Coolboy in the semi-final but suffered heavily to the hands of the champions by a 43-point margin in the decider.
Ballaghaderreen’s blend of experience and youth (Dessie Keegan, Joe McCann, Vinnie Moran, Paul Flynn and Stephen Cooney) helped guide the Mayo men to a staggering 15th crown in Kingscourt.
Cooney, the newest member of the side, was thrilled with the victory.
He said: “I think this has to be one of the greatest achievements in our club to date and it is a testament to the late John Gaffney’s hard work in our club. We would not be here without him.
“Our team actually played very well on the day and that never has been a problem through the years as every player on the team is ready to give everything to win.
“We pick our teams on how our players feel and nobody is safe on the team which is great because nobody takes their position for granted and has to work hard for their place.”
Meanwhile, Tipperary club team Ballina took another huge step forward last weekend in their quest for senior glory when they captured the All-Ireland Intermediate 40x20 Club title at the expense of Coolboy.
The Munster champions had signalled their pedigree when they ousted Williamstown in the last four and they carried that momentum into the showdown match to defeat Coolboy 104-59.
Ballina has made great strides forward as a club both on and off the court since 2000 and have made the jump from junior to senior in just a matter of a few seasons.
They scooped the club of the year accolade a decade ago and they haven’t looked back ever since with many of their players, namely Fergal Collins and Ger Coonan, bagging National titles across the board.
Collins said: “It’s brilliant for the club. A few years back we won the Junior Club Championship and now winning the Intermediate shows we have brought the club to another level so we’re all delighted with the win and hopefully we can keep going in the same direction.
“We won the Junior Big Alley Club in 2003 and back in 2001 Ballina won the club of the year and we have won two Munster Senior club titles. There’s great work going on at underage level and hopefully we can get back to that level and go past it in the near future.”
Collins is now ready to contest for silverware at the World Championships, scheduled for Dublin next October.
“I was happy with my year. I had some results go the wrong way and a few nice wins also so I’m looking forward to 2012 which looks like its going to be a big year for handball here in Ireland with the World Championships.
“I’ll be hoping to compete well in all the different competitions leading up to the worlds and hopefully there will be a 23 and under division and I’ll hope to do my best in that.”