In the end, it all came down to aces, but Team D White won the inaugural Acme Blinds Junior/Masters Handball League Final at St. Joseph’s Community Center.
It was the first time the county had held an inter-club team event with players from different clubs on the same team, and the concept proved to be a resounding success.
The opener featuring Tommy Armstrong and Ray Wickham against Tom Byrne and Jimmy Dunne was a close and somewhat tense encounter throughout, with the opener going Team D White 15-11.
However, the controversy erupted at the end of the second when, leading 14-10, Tom Byrne very sportingly offered a replay of the winning point, after the referee had correctly given it to the E Purple team.
Immediately afterwards however, a ball hit from the center area of the court and heading for the side wall hit Tom Byrne and was called a run by the umpire, on the grounds that it was not going to hit the front wall.
This gave the E Purple team a 15-10 win and tied the tie at one point.
Game two saw the E Purple team enter the pitch without captain Micheál O’Neill who was unavailable, with Tony Breen taking his place as a substitute alongside Shane Terry.
Team D White had inspirational captain David Redmond and the combative Mick Armstrong, however, and they quickly overcame that tie when they won the opener 15-5.
That gave them a 2-1 lead and, more importantly, a 40-31 aggregate lead in the event of a 2-2 tie; meaning they only needed seven points in the final game to secure victory.
They achieved this with some reserve and although they lost the game 15-13, they were declared winners on a countdown of aces by 53-46.
A brilliant play from Redmond was key to success as he hit a rich vein of form to ‘kill’ five or six balls in a row at a vital moment. Armstrong was solid throughout and overall they were the best team in the competition, going through their six matches unbeaten.
County Vice Chairman Ricky Barron thanked Acme Blinds for their generous sponsorship of the event, and the awards were presented by Suzanne Fitzharris.
Team C Black came from behind to defeat Team B Raspberry and win the Acme Blinds Junior CD team event.
The competition was decided on a countdown of aces after Team C Black and Team B Raspberry finished level at two games in all.
Led by Lar Dunne, Team C entered the final as slight favourites, after a hugely successful campaign that saw them go through the competition unbeaten, and with a 3-1 win over Team B under their belts since. league stages. But finals tend to be different and this one was no exception!
The opener was full of drama from start to finish, with Team C leading with Seán Fitzharris and Aaron Maloney and Team B represented by Jodie Keeling and Niall Lacey.
Fitzharris and Maloney had set the pace for their team throughout the competition and secured a comfortable victory over the same opposition earlier in the league, but with Keeling in excellent form, the B team bombarded their opponents early and at 14-3 in the first game, a big lead looked on the cards.
Fitzharris and Maloney were in trouble but dug deep and cut the deficit to 14-10 before Team B got the last ace needed for victory.
Game 2 had its ups and downs, but when Fitzharris and Maloney took a 14-9 lead, they all looked set to level the tie at one game apiece.
Not so! Point by point Keeling and Lacey got it back and when they equalized at 14 all the tension was acceptable.
They just needed one more point for what would have been an unexpected 2-0 lead, but their luck ran out when Keeling went for the kill, pinned it down, but was hit by the ball on the rebound from the front wall and lost his serve. .
Team C took advantage of their good fortune to secure the winning point and tie the game at 1-1.
Lar Dunne and Conor Dobbs entered the field behind aces for the first time in the competition, and faced two players, Liam Rossiter and Keith Devereux, who had drawn with them earlier in the league.
However, they rose to the occasion beautifully to win the first game 15-4, leaving them with only nine aces in the second game to secure the title.
Rossiter and Devereux won this second match by 15-13, but dropping the first by such a margin had done damage and Team C lost the winner by 53-48.
It was a great result for Team C as they were, by far, the youngest quartet in the competition.
Overall, although they were somewhat lucky, their performances throughout the league had them wearing the mantle of favorites.
It was tough for Team B but by finishing just one point (16 to 17) behind Team C in the standings, they were still going to be very close to winning this final.
County Vice Chairman Ricky Barron congratulated everyone who had made the league a resounding success and paid tribute to Acme Blinds for their sponsorship of the leagues.
Presentations were made by Suzanne Fitzharris on behalf of the company.