Irish Asphalt's support for handballers
August 30, 2006
Members of the St. Coman's handball club in Roscommon who took part in the recent World Championships in Canada were well kitted out thanks to the generous support of the Irish Asphalt plant in Aughnacliffe, Co. Longford.
No fewer than 12 handballers from the St. Coman's handball club in Roscommon flew out to Edmonton, Canada at the beginning of August to compete in the World Handball Championships.
Before they departed, a special presentation was made to them by Alan Glennon of Irish Asphalt's North Western Division in Aughnacliffe. Co. Longford. Alan, who himself is a proud Roscommon man, presented jackets, handball gloves, goggles and shirts on behalf of Irish Asphalt, which is a subsidiary of the Lagan Group.
"It was a great achievement for the club to have such a big representation at the World Championships," he says.
"Handball is a great sport and it doesn't get the recognition it deserves. We are delighted to be associated with St. Coman's and wish all of their players all the best in their quest to bring World titles back to Roscommon."
Alan, whose brother Vinny won a Connacht football championship medal with Roscommon in 1991, explains how Irish Asphalt came to be associated with the St. Coman's handballers: "My fiance, Julie O'Riordan, is involved as a committee member and her daughter Lauren was part of the group that travelled to Canada. She competed in the under 11 singles and under 15 doubles.
"Julie told me that the club was looking for sponsorship and I was only too delighted to be able to help out."
Glennon is manager of the Irish Asphalt plant in Aughnacliffe. The plant opened last March and is one of four regional depots run by Lagan Asphalt. The other three are: Lagan South East in Bennettsbridge. Co. Kilkenny, Lagan South West in Tulla, Co. Clare and Armagh Asphalt, which operates from Newtownhamilton, Co. Armagh. The four plants all produce high quality Bitumen Macadam and Asphalt surfacing.
Also employed at Irish Asphalt's North-Western Division is James McGrath (plant operator) and Gerry Sammon (loading shovel driver). Lagan plans to expand plant operations over the coming months.
Alan is one of four brothers who played football for the St. Faithleach's club which is situated in Ballyleague, on the western side of the Shannon Bridge in Lanesboro. The former Roscommon CBS student was joined on the team by Vinny, Frank and Ronan. Their father, Peter, continues to serve the club at committee level.
After captaining Roscommon to win the Fr Manning Cup under 16 tournament, Vinny played for the senior side for many years, usually lining out at half forward. He also represented NUI Maynooth in the Sigerson Cup.
St. Faithleach's have been operating at senior level in Roscommon since winning the county intermediate championship in 2002. They celebrated their return to the top flight with a 2-10 to 0-15 victory over Elphin in the final at Hyde Park.
The crucial score came with eight minutes remaining when Keith Murphy latched onto a crossfield pass from Clement McCormack before planting the ball in the net. That goal gave the Ballyleague men the confidence to go on to claim a memorable win.
St. Faithleach's have been holding their own in the senior ranks ever since and reached the quarter-final of last year's championship where they were well beaten by Padraig Pearses. As well as playing for St. Faithleach's, Alan played with Edmonton Wolfe Tones in Canada for a number of seasons. How ironic it is that Edmonton should host this year's World Handball Championships!
Ten of the St. Coman's group competed in the girls junior section of the World Championships. They were Leona Doolin, who was part of the Irish team, Marianna Rushe, Deirdre Donohue, Katie Costello, Hilary Rushe, Emer Coyle, Laura Mannion, Linda Connolly, Anna Keenan and Lauren O'Riordan. The St. Coman's representation was completed by Dermot Doolin and Michael Naughton, who competed in the Masters grade, while Anne Naughton was assistant manager to the Irish team.
"We are very proud of them all," says St. Coman's chairman Mark O'Gara.
"Handball may be struggling in other parts of the country, but that's certainly not the case in Roscommon. We have a membership of about 250 and having 12 players in Canada underlines our current well-being."
Mark, who was no mean handballer in his younger days and actually won All-Ireland under 21 football and minor handball medals in the same year (1966), is fulsome in his praise of the coaches and officers who have played a major part in the club's success.
"We are very fortunate to have a number of excellent people working behind the scenes. Anne and Mick Naughton are great promoters of the game and Damien Martin is doing Trojan work with the young players. Tony Hand is another committed club member - he doubles up as our secretary and juvenile liaison officer."
Handball has a long tradition in Roscommon, stretching back over a century. St. Coman's caters for players from Roscommon Town and surrounding areas. The club has a large number of juvenile boys and girls playing and competing, and boasts an impressive record at underage level.
St. Coman's has two excellent handball courts. The 60x30 court, with glass backwall, was built in 1978 and remains one of the finest courts in the country. The gallery can accommodate 240 spectators. The 40x20 court, also with glass backwall, was opened in 1985, and with the addition of modern heating and ventilation systems, is on a par with any court in Ireland. The gallery can seat 160 spectators.
St. Coman's was founded in 1930, having celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. In the early days, Harry O'Doherty was the club's driving force both on and off the court. He teamed up with Joe Hoare to reach the All-Ireland senior doubles final in 1936, only to lose to the famous Hassett brothers from Tipperary.
St. Coman's produced many fine players during this period, including Eugene Gannon, Toss McCourt, Sean Cox, Pakie and Brodie Keavey, Pakie Fullard, Brian O'Doherty, Joe and Owen Hoare, John O'Gara, John Walshe, Frank Gaughan and Walter Quigley.
Ray Doherty was the club's marquee name in the 1950s and 60s, winning several Connacht and All-Ireland titles. The arrival of Brother PH O'Dwyer in Roscommon CBS and his subsequent chairmanship of the club from 1962 through to the 1970s brought even greater success for Roscommon handballers. Along with Pakie Hoare, Gerry Mahon and Felix Kiernan, Brother O'Dwyer worked tirelessly with the juveniles who duly produced outstanding results.
In 1964, Kevin Fullard and Gerry Mahon combined to win the All-Ireland junior hardball doubles title. The 1970s were a golden era for the club with successes in every grade except the senior championship. In this decade, Mickey Walshe made a tremendous impact on the handball world, while Paddy McCrann and Noel Mannion won every All-Ireland juvenile doubles title available to them.
Despite the decline in numbers playing the game, handball remains strong in Roscommon with St. Coman's continuing to be recognised as one of the top clubs in the country.
* Since we spoke to Alan, it emerged that Roscommon had four winners at the World Handball Championships. Congratulations to all.
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