Coolchaint, 25 March 1998

1998, The story so far: Lovely Handball

Main cast:
An Captaen: John Nolan
Stingy Vegetarian: Kevin Carey
Ms. P.R.O.: Catherine Finnegan
Mr. Guinness: Cormac McCarthy
Mr. Popular: Pat Custy

Supporting cast:
The other members of the club.
The Sandwich makers: Claire Lyons, Sinead Bredin, David Cregan,Brendan Daly, Susan O Brien.
Various Sunshine Supporters.

Three months ago, the members of NUI, Galway handball club faced a daunting prospect. Not only were they charged with hosting this years Third-Level Colleges Handball championships, but these were set to be the biggest ever. To cause further complications, the competitions were due to take place over the same three days as the Heineken weekender in town, and the Volleyball Intervarsities on campus.

If the truth were known, the greatest complication of all was that absolutely no preparations had been done, or even thought of, as everyone headed home for the Christmas holidays!

When the secretary of the National Handball Association came all the way from Croke Park for a conference with yours truly and the newly-elected P.R.O., we got the kick-start we needed. There were only four weeks remaining.

Over the following weeks, the club split in two. General administration and communicating with the representatives of the sixteen or so colleges which were entering, was left to me and my (unfortunate, unwilling) flatmates. At the same time, several brave souls (especially Kevin Carey and Pat Custy) trudged around town desperately looking for a bob or two. This was a particularly thankless task, as most businesses had already promised sponsorships to other events, and they were getting soaked to the skin more often than not.

By the first week of February, the week preceding the events, the phone was being answered as Handball Intervarsity office. Please hold. in my house!

The championship finally kicked off on the evening of Friday 5th, with a 7:00pm meeting in the Hub restaurant. These were officially the biggest handball intervarsities ever with, for the first time, over 100 people entered in the various events. Because of this, play got underway in the mens singles (Open & B ) that night in the IMI courts.

The first non-handball event brought back many memories for the NUI,G team as it was a return to our old haunt, the Hole in the Wall, Eyre St. Sandwiches and singin ! the program declared and the first annual handballers karaoke challenge was won by the righteous boys and girls from DIT with their very original version of Unchained Melody !

To call Saturday hectic would be an understatement. The club jeep, borrowed from the Captains understanding father, was definitely needed as games were simultaneously taking place on campus and in two different venues in Salthill.

With ever-decreasing good intentions we travelled from court to court, making vain attempts to bring some order to the proceedings! At this point the sandwich makers made their entrance, providing the competitors with Ham and Cheese specials that were the talk of the town! Well, until dinner was served anyway!

By 8:00 in the evening, much to everyone s relief, the competitions had all been played through as far as the finals, which would take place the following day. The entourage moved, eventually, on to the Imperial hotel, Eyre Sq. The meal was lovely after the long, hard day and was most definitely a success well, we are talking about students and a free meal here!

When everyone was fed, the braver players decided not to head for the bar but to remain for the AGM of the All-Ireland Handball Intervarsity council. This was presided over by yours truly, wearing my other hat of (outgoing) Chairman of the afore mentioned council. Special guests at the meeting included Lorcán O Ruairc, General Secretary of the Handball Association and Bridín Uí Mhaolagáin, President of the Ladies Handball Association. During the course of the meeting it was decided that the three Dublin Universities along with DIT would co-host next years championships. We all wish them the best of luck!

Since both NUI,G teams had qualified for the finals of their respective divisions, team members were amazingly well behaved the whole night! This tactic did not pay off for the B team (John Nolan, David Hynes, Mickey Corley and Kevin Carey) who were well beaten by new-comers Sligo RTC in the Plate (Div. 2) final.

Other winners throughout the course of the day were:

By the time the Championship final, between NUI,G and holders DIT, took place the inadequacies of the college handball courts were well and truly shown. Why these new courts weren t built with glass backwalls, such as the Squash courts have, is anybody s guess. The lack of a decent viewing area meant that several chairs and even a table had to be dragged into position on the balcony of court 2 so as many people as possible could at least have some view of the games.

The final was a thriller. While none of the home team are spring chickens in terms of colleges handball, only two of them (David Brennan and Pat Custy) had previously played in the Championship decider. Both men played superbly, winning both of their singles matches. The doubles team of Gene Kelleher and Tomás Reilly gave it their all and sneaked an aggregate victory off their opponents, who included the new open singles champion Paul Brady.

NUI,G were the handball intervarsity champions for the first time since 1991. A huge gap for a college that held that title for 9 out of 10 year during the late 70s and early 80s. Unsurprisingly, a great night was had by all in the College Bar afterwards as Cormac McCarthy gave out free pints of Guinness to all and sundry. Was it down to the joy of victory or relief that it was all over?

The jeep played its final role of the weekend by carrying 11 people in to the Icon nightclub. We were rejoined by the Sligo RTC team who had left some time earlier and had, apparently, missed their bus home! Everyone gave their best attempt at boogying the night away. Some of Mickey s manoeuvres on the dancefloor will never be forgotten, and fair play to Catherine for being a good PRO and forging new links with the DIT handball club!

The club must express it gratitude to Guinness, especially Eoin Loughnane, Bank of Ireland, the Galway Hostel and the Great Outdoors who were all kind enough to sponsor the events. We must also say thanks to Tony Regan, Matt Doran, the staff of the SU and all the Gentlemen who work in the Sports Centre, especially Gay, who is surely our unofficial team mascot.

However, this is not the end of the story. The events of the first week of February may have been daunting but the events of the first week of March were the stuff of pure fantasy!

On the night of Wednesday 4th March, Mr. Guinness a.k.a. Cormac McCarthy became the first ever handballing President of the Students Union. He takes over the post in July and I think the whole club will join with me in wishing him the best of luck for the upcoming year. Hopefully, it won t take him away from training too often!

The very next night, the A teams achievement was honoured as they became the first people to receive a Sports award for handball since the great team of the early 80s, at the Sports Ball. They were in with some very impressive company and deservedly so. A great night was had by all and it was an enjoyable experience to sit at a table held entirely by the handball club!

Can the handball club improve on its most successful year ever? Well, as All-Ireland champions, the team is entitled to go to the American collegiate championships but that s a worry for next year! We ll definitely have to improve our organisational methods first. The team still isn t actually even registered with the Handall Association!

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