For a man who says he never played handball, Anthony Mahady has certainly made his mark on the game in Roscommon. The chairperson and founding member of the Kilglass Gaels Handball Club is now preparing to celebrate its tenth year in existence by co-hosting the renowned Wallball Nationals event.
“There was never a handball club in the parish or nothing about handball until we built this big hall,” he told Roscommon People recently.
“The County Convention was held here back in December 2011 and I was there that night to meet and greet visitors. After the meeting, a man called Liam Ó Ceallaigh introduced himself to me. He was the chairperson of the Roscommon Handball Board at the time. He said we had a great facility for three Onewall handball courts.
“At the time I was a full-time referee and I was training two teams here with the club…but I knew what was coming! Sure enough, Liam asked if I would be interested in setting up a handball club (laughs)”.
Anthony received great support from the wider club and decided to call a meeting for February of the following year.
“Eddie Conboy got involved and he’s been the secretary for the last ten years. Johnny McHugh also helped out in the early years. My daughter, Natasha, has come on board now and she helps us out with Facebook and things like that,” he said.
A court was set up with financial support from the club’s Bingo Committee and Kilglass Gaels Handball Club was born.
The club was carried on the crest of a wave in those early months, thanks in no small part to a resurgence in the game’s popularity following the World Handball Championships at Citywest in 2012.
The game’s popularity continued to grow in Kilglass in 2013 and the club installed its second and third walls to meet demand.
The club’s first county title soon arrived when Adam Coggeran and Anthony’s son Thomas paired up to win the U-13 ‘B’ doubles in 2014.
That juvenile success was followed quickly by the club’s first adult title in 2015 as secretary Eddie Conboy won that year’s Onewall competition in Mount Talbot.
Further county titles arrived in 2017, 2018 and 2019 with Anthony’s daughter, Natasha, Eddie Conboy, John Corcoran, and well-known clubman Dermot Washington among the winners.
The Covid-ravaged year of 2020 was a “short but successful one” according to Anthony with county titles for brothers, John and David Coggeran.
2021 was the club’s most successful year in terms of the number of titles won (8). There were four county titles in Mount Talbot that year with John Coggeran (Masters), David Coggeran (Men’s ‘B’), Fionn Cusack (Men’s ‘A’), and Thomas Mahady (Junior ‘C’) all taking home silverware.
It was 2022, however, when the club took home its biggest title to date when Alanna Coggeran (daughter of John) claimed national honours in the 40×20 Girls’ U-17 ‘B’ finals in Tyrone.
“We’ve always had good numbers coming along and taking part but it’s really taken off in the last four years with county, provincial and national honours won,” Anthony said.
“At the moment we have around 40 or 50 playing between the juveniles and the adults. We have 13 players taking part in the Wallball Nationals this weekend.
“The club has developed massively in the last ten years. We have a fully functioning structure and a youth coaching programme every week. We are regarded as one of the finest handball courts across the country now”.
This weekend will see the culmination of ten years’ hard work in Kilglass as Anthony and his fellow committee members prepare to host one of the biggest events in the Irish Handball calendar, the Wallball Nationals.
“It’s a great boost for the club and a great way to celebrate our tenth anniversary. We’re looking forward to it now and hopefully it will be a great weekend,” he concluded.