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Darren Doherty - All-Ireland U16 Champion.

Here is a report of the final:

‘Abbeylara, Co. Longford was the venue for this year’s U-16 All Ireland final, the blue riband event in Juvenile Handball. Darren Doherty and Donal Wrynn are both very strong players but with Wrynn being 16 and Doherty only 14, the Leitrim man was favourite to take the title. Doherty’s confidence was knocked by the age, height and skill of his opponent, but he managed to stay positive facing into this event. As the two lads warmed up on the 60 x 30 court next door, the crowd took their places and a packed gallery awaited the youngsters as they took to the court for the big final.

Wrynn won the toss to serve in the first game and notched up the first point quickly but Doherty was fast to score and got in to serve but lost it straight away again. Wrynn forged ahead to take the score to 8-1, and Doherty found it difficult to cope with the power and skill that was displayed by the young Leitrim player. Wrynn scored several aces using a low power serve into both corners and kept Doherty on the back foot throughout this game. With easy set ups off Wrynn’s low power serve the Leitrim man closed off this first game on a score of 21 – 6. The mainly Leitrim support in the gallery were going wild at this point, and to many it looked like the match was all over. However, for young Doherty the match was only starting! He took his two minutes between the games to re-group and realise that it is never over until it’s over.

With this mental attitude, he went back into the second game serving first, and determined to take this final to a tie-breaker. Showing great grit and determination Doherty quickly notched up a 5 -1 lead using the same low power serve used to such good effect by his opponent in the previous game, down the left and right sides, and sometimes managing to put a serious spin on the ball. Doherty had found his feet in the match and started playing the game that we are used to seeing from him. Wrynn is a powerful player and used accurate power shots, and showed great skill in killing the ball from the back of the court, he fought hard to stay in the game. Doherty used his roof shots to take several points, and displaying some fantastic low passing shots and a couple of spectacular kill shots, ensured that the Leitrim man did not catch up with him during this game. The scores were at no point tied, and Darren finished out the second game 21 – 12 to force a tie-break situation. Having seen the form of the two players in the first game, nobody would have predicted that it would come to this.

The tension going into the third game was palpable, and you could have heard a pin drop in the gallery. For both players it was going to be an immense battle with everything to play for here. Wrynn had the slight advantage of serve going into the tie-breaker and scored a point straight off. Darren scored and got back in to serve and scored two points before Donal regained serve and scored another two. With several long rallies with both players using roof shots before one or other player finished off with a kill shot, and a couple of great passing shots, this was spectacular handball with each of the lads fighting for his life. Neither player gave an inch, and each point was hard fought for. The score was tied at 3 all with Wrynn serving and Doherty managed to get back in to serve. Doherty lost it again and Wrynn took the score to 6-3. Doherty fought like a tiger through some serious rallies and got back into serve several times on this score but only managed to score the one point before Wrynn forged ahead again to take the score to 7-4. At no point in the game did Doherty give up or lose focus, and with the score on 8-5 he got back into serve and showing class under serious pressure, rattled off three in a row to tie the score at 8-8. Wrynn regained serve and killed two shots in a row to bring the score to 10 – 8. It looked like the Leitrim player would take the tie-breaker with only one point left to score. Wrynn had two chances to finish the game at this score, with young Doherty regaining serve and losing it again. However Doherty used his chance the second time he regained serve - he used great passing shots down the left to bring the score to 10 -10. It just doesn’t get any closer than this in an All Ireland final and there was complete silence in the gallery. The next point would decide who walked away with the 2010 U-16 All Ireland title. Darren served a powerful serve down the left which Donal managed to return, and with this set up, Darren sent the ball down the left again past Donal, but with Wrynn’s long reach he managed to scoop it up. Unfortunately for him it didn’t make the front wall and Doherty finished this edge of the seat tie breaker on a scoreline of 11 – 10 to take the title. There was a shocked silence in the gallery while the Leitrim support took in what had just happened. Darren Doherty showed immense maturity and composure in the face of what seemed like an impossible task, and a gallery packed to the rafters with loud support for the Leitrim opponent, and came out of this epic battle a worthy winner. An amazing achievement for the 14 year old Emyvale player. Congratulations and well done to Darren’.


On Monday night, April 12th, a reception was held in Emyvale Leisure Centre to pay tribute to Darren and to recognise his great achievement. Present were: Austin McKenna, on behalf of the Ulster Handball Council; Padraig Sherry, vice-chairperson of Monaghan County Board; Sean Murphy, Assistant secretary Monaghan County Board; Katrina Mone, Chairperson Monaghan Handball Board, and mother of Darren; Monica McKernan, Organiser of the event; Padraig Treanor, Chairperson of Emyvale GFC; Laura Treanor, Secretary Emyvale GFC; members of St. Mellans Handball Club; Peter Larkin, Handball Coach; members of Darren’s family and a number of locals. Words of congratulations were spoken to Darren and those involved with him in his sport. He was praised for the wonderful commitment and maturity he has shown in his approach to the game and was wished every success in the future.

In her address, Monica McKernan mentioned the fact that the planners and builders of the Leisure Centre had included a Handball Court and a Squash Court as part of the building at a time when Handball was not a common sport in the area. It was great foresight that the court was provided as we can now see the benefits 25 years later and she thanked those responsible.

That was true of the time but it might be interesting for the younger generation to know that Handball was a big game in the North Monaghan area all through the years beffore then. There was an Open Alley at the side of Clara Hall and many Emyvale folk played there as well as using the alleys at St. Macartans College. Fr. Nolan was a skilful player and it was he who developed the handball facilities at the College. Another former curate in Truagh, Fr, Joe McCluskey now in Threemilehouse was a great exponent of the game. However the boys of Emyvale did not need an alley - they played up against any wall that they could find. But older folk will remember the great games played against the gable wall of the Parochial, now the Oratory. Traffic, which was light, could not interrupt a bout of play. Then the ball had to be retrieved from Mrs. Russell’s garden if it could be found in the long grass.  Other places around the village were used on occasion and handball was the great pastime during lunch break in Mullan Mills. Workers in the factory have many stories to tell of those games. Kevin Majnone, the two Paddy Murphys, the Kerrs, the Mulligans, The O’Neills, Benny Connolly, Packie ‘Speed’ Hughes, The Kilroys, the Gilmores, The Quinns, the McCormacks, The McConnons, the Fordes, the McKennas, the Farmers, John Connolly, and the list goes on and on of lads who excelled at the game under terrible conditions. Some of these names may be strange to the younger people and I’m sure I have omitted other greats but I am just trying to show that there is a handball tradition in Emyvale. Increasing traffic had put and end to the handball at the ‘corner’ and so few were then playing the game. It was for that reason the court was included in the Leisure Centre plans as it was hoped that the game would become popular again and that some day an All-Ireland title would come to Emyvale just like Clones had with Seamus McCabe formerly. Now we have an All-Ireland winner and a World champion. Keep it going Darren and we look forward to the day you capture the Senior Title too.

Darren Doherty, the Emyvale Handballer and Double World Champion at the 13years and under level, has just captured the All-Ireland U16 Championship by defeating Donal Wrynn from Leitrim. This is a first for a Monaghan Handballer as this particular competition, the blue riband of juvenile handball, has never come this way before. Added to that the fact that Darren was competing at a level two years above his proper level makes this achievement all the more laudable. Our congratulations to Darren and his mentors on a fantastic win.

Our photos show some of those who attended the Reception on Monday night in Emyvale Leisure Centre. The top left photo shows Michael McCarron congratulate Darren on his great win. If Handball has survived in Monaghan, and it certainly has, there is one person who must be given credit for his work, time, energy, efforts and assistance in keeping the game going even when times were tough and resources scarce. His enthusiasm for the game has been instilled into many others throughout the county and much further afield and he can rightfully take pride in seeing titles coming to youngsters who are now playing the game.