Conor McElduff and Pádraig Quish fly the flag in Belgium
IN IRELAND, we call it One-Wall Handball but on the European continent they call it Wall Ball. Whatever the name it doesn't matter as you will find Irish players challenging for titles - like Conor McElduff and Pádraig Quish.
This week the Tyrone and Limerick men are in Belgium to bid for the Belgium Open Championship, an event on the newly-established European Pro Tour. The format of that tour is that the top 16 players on the ranking will gain access to the Men's Open along with six wild card entries to be decided by the tournament organisers.
McElduff has had another excellent season in handball, having won the Irish and Ulster One-Wall Championships, among other honours, and is a nominee for the Ulster GAA Writers' Handball Award at next Friday night's banquet in Bundoran.
“I was very pleased to be nominated for a second year for the award. It is a great honour but, unfortunately, I won't be able to attend as I will be in Belgium at the time,” said Conor after he got his invitation to the banquet.
He has been proving himself on the European Pro Tour, having recently reached the semi-finals in the Spanish Open Championship, a country in which there is another popular form of handball played with a special glove.
Limerick man Quish earned his spot on the European Tour by winning the UK Open B title earlier this year. McElduff is, of course, an invitee being the Irish champion. He also played in Holland recently.
Argentina, Belgium, Holland, Spain, UK, as well as Ireland, will all be represented in the Belgium Open draw next weekend.
Meanwhile, GAA President Aogán O Fearghai was on home soil last week to perform a function that is very dear to his heart. He was at the Ballyconnell Community Centre to cut the tapes on the new 40x20 handball court which is an excellent addition to the growing number of courts in Ulster. It was a return to pastures old for Aogán.
“My first event as GAA President was in Ballyconnell and I'm delighted to be back here, again. This was the first GAA club in Ulster, that will never be taken away from you," he said, referring to the local Kildallan GAA Club which is the oldest in the province.
“I’m glad that handball is now very much central to activities here. The GAA menu has to be always broad. There are a lot of guys who might not want to play football but they could play hurling or handball and the same goes for girls and for rounders and Scór. It’s nice to have the variety.”
He continued: “Cavan has a lot of things going for it that we sometimes don’t recognise and handball is a very special game and is very strong here. The best handballer ever, Paul Brady, is a Cavan man.
“Girls and boys, when they play sports, are always dreaming, always looking for an idol, and there is none better than Paul Brady, who won five world handball titles in a row against professional athletes.
“Paul has done wonderful things for Cavan – there are a lot of good things happening in Cavan and I’m delighted that you’re now part of that with this fabulous handball alley.”
What is not generally known about the GAA President is that he is an All-Ireland Handball title winner. While at university he won a national doubles title.