Will Handball Ever "Take" in Cooley?
Whither handball? Will the sport of handball, which was played in the Ancient Olympics and whose mother in the modern world is Ireland, bite the dust or will it live on in far-flung places around the world - including in The Cooley Peninsula?
In the early morning (10.30 a.m.) of Wednesday 10 November 2004 a few members of Cooley Environmental and Health Group (CEHG) started out from the car-park of Best Western Ballymascanlon House Hotel for a trip to Tullyvin, Co Cavan. They reached their destination about 1.00 p.m. after a stop for coffee in Carrickmacross and they played a little handball there on the old alley before retiring for lunch to The Errigal Hotel, Cootehill.
They located a handball facility belonging to The Carrickmacross Emmetts Sports and Social Club and met by chance on the Main Street of Carrickmacross Mrs Eileen Rafferty whose son Finbar, she told us, won a World Championship Handball title once when the competition was played in Ireland and, subsequently again when it was played in the USA. Incidentally her son’s name gives us the essential clue that she herself is a native of The Rebel County.
Mrs Nancy Reilly, postmistress Tullyvin, told us that a young man from Tullyvin, James Clerkin, won recently the All-Ireland Colleges Handball Championship playing for St Patrick’s College, Cavan.
Archbishop Michael Desmond ("Dessie") Hynes who was one of the party (he is secretary of CEHG) said about Tullyvin:
"This is a nice relaxing part of the country - I could live here."
The party also saw the outside of Kingscourt Handball and Racquet Club and passed through Shercock (which seems to be an important hub in the Dundalk/Cavan axis) three times altogether that day. The World Handball Championships were held in Kingscourt, Co Cavan in 2003.
CEHG have been discussing, privately and publicly, the game of handball since almost the date of foundation of the group in 1994 with a view to getting it established in Cooley where there is no evidence of handball ever having been played in any semblance of a systematic way. The reason why CEHG have never succeeded in making any practical progress with the project is not for want of effort nor because the population of The Cooley Peninsula hates sport.
In fact this year’s Co Louth Senior Football Championship Final was contested by the two teams from the Peninsula - Cooley Kickham’s and St Patrick’s, Lordship. St Patrick’s were the winners (by the minimum in a tense contest) and they also won the title last year in a replay against St Mary’s, Ardee.
Noel McGrane - a native of Greenore - won The West of Ireland title in golf in the 1980’s. John McGinn, then a member of Greenore GC, won the Irish Close title a few short years ago.
As well as that Bellurgan United AFC won the Meath and District League, for the umpteenth time, last year and went through the whole season unbeaten.
Handball is an excellent game for physical fitness and for developing reflexes. It is very much a low cost sport, it very seldom causes injury and it is not time-consuming. "Let us all pray that handball will soon be added to the portfolio of sports played in The Cooley Peninsula," said Archbishop Hynes, "Do chum glóire Dé agus onóir na hÉireann."