Rossies win three golds at World Handball finals

The World Handball Championships in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, concluded on Friday with the four-wall finals.

 Representing St Coman’s, Roscommon, Fiona Tully, and the Siobhan Tully/Linda Connolly combination took home gold medals in their respective grades.  In the Men’s flagship Open Doubles event, St Coman’s Rikki O’Gara and Ballaghderreen’s Joe McCann played sensationally to reach the final taking out very strong Irish and American opposition along the way.

  Fiona Tully showed why she was part of the Irish Team in the 2012 World Games in Dublin and came back to form in 2015 with a sensational win, in what was an extremely competitive Girls 17&under event.

  Fiona also won silver in the One-wall doubles with Tyrone’s Elise McCrory, losing the final narrowly to Niamh Coleman and Alanna Doran.

  Fiona looks to be back to her best and deserves great credit for her dedication, following a hampered preparation because of a serious back injury. It must be noted that Fiona is the last of a very, very long line of great handballers coached by Roscommon’s Mr. Handball, Michael Naughton and it is fitting that he bows out of coaching at the very highest level.

Ladies ‘C’ Doubles

Fiona’s sister Siobhan and Hawthorn Drive neighbour Linda Connolly took the ladies ‘C’ Doubles accolades. They defeated opposition from India and Ireland to meet the strongly tipped Laura Keever (Waterford) and Kristian Rude (USA) in the final.

  Linda and Siobhan shot out of the blocks with strong serves which broke off the back court and around the back wall to force point after point. Their court positioning and telepathy smacked of ideal preparation and weak returns from the opposition were finished off with kill shots from Siobhan and pass shots from Linda. Two quick time-outs in the first game could not help Laura and Kristian to settle. Game one went to the St Coman’s ladies 21-10.

  A switch of positions by the opposition seemed to work at the start of the second game, where the Coman’s ladies went down 6-1. But Siobhan and Linda quickly found their rhythm again and closed the final out in two games, 21-10, 21-16.

Mens Open Doubles

Although the final ended in disappointment for Rikki O’Gara and Joe McCann in the Men’s Open Doubles event, these two guys gave handball fans a thrilling few days in the University Campus in Calgary. On this top stage, Rikki and Joe, against the odds, took out world renowned and pro handball players with each round.

  Colm Jordan (Irl) and Jon Iglasius (USA) were first to fall, followed by the highly decorated Sean Lenning and Marcos Chavez (USA). Rikki and Joe were not fazed either by taking on Michael Finnegan and Charlie Shanks in the semi, even after going down in the first game. They came through the match after some brilliant retrieving, finishing and a slower pace strategy, on a scoreline of 10-21, 21-18, 11-4.  In the final Rikki and Joe faced up to two of Ireland’s top players, Robbie McCarthy and Diarmuid Nash.

 The key to the entire match was the first game, where the Roscommon pair looked in control for virtually all the game leading, 18-14, but then failing to finish off the game and at this level even one or two missed chances can prove fatal.

  The clinical finishing of this left-right Clare/Westmeath combination proved too much in the end and the brave Roscommon challenge succumbed on a scoreline of 21-18, 21-4.

  A number of the Open doubles games were webcast by the World Pro Handball and shown on ESPN.

  To hear the USA commentators talk about Rogue & Co in Roscommon Town shows how Rikki and Joe, if not before, are now household names in handball and sporting circles. Rikki and Joe did Roscommon and Ballaghaderreen very proud and are fantastic ambassadors for their respective clubs and counties.

Boys 15 & under

Michael Egan’s improvement continued in very impressive style as he reached the semi-final of the 15&under event, where he gave eventual champion Tiernan Agnew from Clare by far his toughest match of the campaign before going down 21-9, 21-16. Michael had beaten the number three seed Cormac Munroe in his quarter-final 21-12.

Boys 17 & under

Cathal O’Connor had a very good win in his first round match against Cork’s Eoghan Sheehan, before running into another Corkonian, the excellent Tadhg O’Neill. Despite trying his best Cathal was really up against it and lost in two straight against one of the top players in the competition.

Men’s ‘A’

Oisin Naughton was really up against it in the ultra-competitive Men’s ‘A’ grade. He had a marathon opening match against Cavan’s Patrick Clerkin before unluckily going down 11-9 in the tie-breaker.

In the doubles Oisin and Clare’s Fergal Coughlan had a good opening round win against Canadian opposition before losing decisively to eventual winners Ryan Harkin and Tadhg Carroll from Cork.

  Congrats to all players, coaches and officials from the county and beyond for their efforts in the 2015 World Handball Championships.

  No write-up on the 2015 World Handball Championships would be complete without mentioning Cavan’s Paul Brady. Paul won the Men’s Open Singles event in Calgary, claiming his fifth consecutive World Open singles title.