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Conor McElduff hopes to cap great run with another handball victory

Handball star Conor McElduff
Tony McGee

European Wallball Number One Conor McElduff has stormed back for his leg injury in style with a string of success which he hopes to cap this weekend with victory in the prestigious Mount Talbot men's open tournament and make May a month to remember.

The Beragh battler is on a fabulous role just now, since overcoming his early setback in training, and he hopes to keep the tun going in his build up to the World Championships in Minnesota next August.

In the last three weeks he has captured the Irish Wallball nationals title, followed by the Inis Mor men's Open Trophy and last weekend he added the Ulster One Wall senior crown to his growing list.

After Mount Talbot on McElduff's hit-list followed will be the All-Ireland Wallball Championship. If things go as he hopes, Conor could be clinching five major titles on successive weekends.

Winning all the big titles in Ireland, recently, has been a great achievement but the icing on the cake for McElduff is that he has also claimed his place on Team Ireland for the World Championships in Minneapolis in three months' time.

Of the successes to date, Conor is thrilled to have secured a fourth Irish Men's Open title in five years at the One Wall nationals in Breaffy Sports Arena, where he had to see off Spanish star Sacha Kruithof, the European Number Two, and talented All-Ireland 40x20 champion Martin Mulkerrins from Galway.

"It means the world to me to be the Irish Nationals champion again for the fourth time," enthused Conor. "It's the biggest tournament of the year in my eyes and it's always the one I am most eager to win.

"It also feels amazing to be able to represent Ireland, officially, for the second time on the world stage. It's really a dream come true and such a huge honour."

The Tyrone man played very little handball in the early part of the year because of his injury that forced him to pull out of a tournament in the US but he never lost faith or belief that he could still achieve his goal of winning the Nationals again.

“I'll admit there was a stage where I wasn't 100 per cent sure if I'd be back in time to defend my title at Breaffy but I've put a lot of hard work in over the years so I knew if I was able to get back to near full fitness at all that I'd be in with a great chance," he reveals.

The eventual champion had to come through a tough semi-final and final in Castlebar, including another epic duel with his big rival Mulkerrins and he did feel under extra pressure to deliver and to make the Irish team.

"I was definitely very nervous and felt a lot of pressure during the first game of the final which I lost but then I realised these are the moments you live for, so I just embraced it and had a blast! Everything turned out just perfect in the end."

He added: "I've been relaxed since winning my spot on the Ireland team but I'll be doing a lot of studying and training in the build-up to the World Championships as the top Americans are at a different level. Still, I honestly believe I can challenge them this time.

"The whole trip will be a very special experience and it's great to see another Tyrone player on the Irish team too. Mairead Fox is an amazing young player who will no doubt be in with a great chance of winning a title.”

Overall, Conor has been happy with his recent form and his latest achievements but he knows there is a lot of work to do.

"Fitness-wise I was happy enough at the nationals as I was never really too tired during the games but handball-wise I felt I was only at 70 per cent, so I have two months to work on that and make sure I give these world championships my best shot," he plans.


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