It was a case of ‘alley’ magic on Saturday afternoon in Ballyshannon, as the Erne town played host to its first official handball tournament in decades, marking the return of the game, once the most popular sport in town next to gaelic football.
There was the “shuffle” and some returns of serve that floated like a butterfly, but stung like a bee that the other “Ali” would have been proud of.
Despite its location in the far north west, this “alley” ranks were boosted down the years with some of the finest handballers in the land, thanks to its proximity to the nearby Finner Camp and members of An Garda Siochana who served in the town.
Amongst the crowd was veteran Tom Gallagher from Cluain Barron who modestly happened to mention in conversation that he was actually present at the official opening of the then ‘new’ handball alley in 1937.
Denis McGuinness told the paper: “We were delighted with the turnout, the weather, the enthusiasm and even the food. All the games were very exciting and even though the Olympics were in full flight, we had a great crowd down at the handball alley. To all those who made the day a success, all I can say is it would not have happened without the help and assistance of many. We also saw some promising young players from the town and it was a great showcase for both the reformed handball club and the town. This is as much about getting the local community involved, as it is about the sport itself.” Ballyshannon had four double teams on the day. They were Stephen McGlinchey and James Gormley; Gerry Lally and Robert Lawn; Denis McGuinness and Ryan O’Brien; David Gallagher and Tommy McGowan. Other veterans who were spotted included Josie Boyle, Jim Downey, Seamus Martin, Francie Gallagher, Peter Daly, Sean Keenaghan, Michael Gallagher, Jim Maguire, Denis McGee and Danny Quinn with a few others slipping through the net.
Amongst those who sent their congratulations on the tourney success was Monaghan based garda Conor McDonnell, who is a native of Bundoran and currently the handball representative on the Ulster Council of the GAA.
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