Back in his first year as a Roscommon Community College student, Liam Egan decided he wanted a break from the handball alleys. Having won two All-Ireland titles in primary school, the St. Coman’s clubman wanted to focus on the big move to secondary education.
“I’d been in first year a month or two and it was going grand and a competition came up – I think it could have been U-14 doubles. We got through Connacht easy enough and into the All-Ireland,” he recalls.
Liam and his doubles partner Magomaed Yakhyaev made their way to Tipperary where the alley was said to be “lucky” for St. Coman’s players. It didn’t quite work out that way for Liam and ‘Mog’, however.
“We always seemed to do well there. We’d gone down two or three times during a normal week (to prepare) but it didn’t pay off, we just didn’t play well on the day. You just felt like all that effort for nothing really.
“I felt really bad after that so I just took a break for a few months. Then, leading up to that Christmas I thought I’d been out a while and it was time to go back.”
Fate, or bad luck, was to intervene however and Liam suffered a broken leg while taking part in P.E. just before the Christmas holidays.
The hunger to return to the handball alley grew as he recuperated from the injury.
“Looking at all the medals I’d won through the years, I just wanted that same feeling again. Once you get a taste of it you want to keep going.
“I’d matured a little bit though. (I realised) that just because you’ve had one bad day you can’t just say ‘Oh that’s it!’”
Family, friends and coaches had encouraged Liam to return throughout his two-year absence from the game and looking back he’s delighted they did.
He returned to the alley with a vengeance this year, training with his brother Michael four and five times a week during the summer. It all culminated in an unforgettable day in Carlow recently as Liam claimed the 60×30 U-15 All-Ireland singles title against Tipperary’s Cormac Doheny.
“I lost the first game 15-5, I didn’t really panic, but I thought ‘Cop yourself on and do what you do best and just play handball’.
“It was a relief to win. In the deciding game I had been 13-5 up and then it went 13-12 and God if I lost it – there are so many things going through your head. I just kept going and luckily I came through,”
concluded Roscommon’s latest All-Ireland champion.