New handball wall to be unveiled in Clonkill next Wednesday

The new handball wall at Clonkill’s GAA clubhouse.

After Covid-19’s rude interruption of sporting life over the last 20 months, the new handball club located in Clonkill is finally getting the chance to launch its handball wall at the Clonkill HC clubhouse in Loughegar.

All-Ireland winning Kilkenny hurler and handballer Richie Hogan will be at the club on Wednesday evening, November 3 (6pm), to formally unveil the wall, which was built last year with the help of local sponsorship and craftsmanship.

From there, Clonkill Handball Club will be taking bookings for singles, doubles and group handball sessions at the hall in Loughegar clubhouse.

The new wall is very much a local effort, and produced entirely out of local sponsorship and labor, without any cost to the fledgling club.

“Kilmurray’s Hardware in Mullingar very kindly sponsored the wall,” explained Eoin Price, former Westmeath senior hurler and one of the founding members of Clonkill Handball Club. “They provided all the plywood, the building materials, paint etc.

“Then we had carpentry from Paul Kelleghan, Mark Keegan and O’Reilly/Fitzsimons Construction (David O’Reilly and Jimmy Fitzsimons) as the main part of the work, which was all done out of the goodness of their hearts. Kilmurray’s came out one day and dropped all the materials, and they got to work.

“Then we had Noel Fahy come in and finish it off with some plastering and painting, and he put the ‘GAA Handball’ sticker on it.

“So we’ve been very lucky with the support we’ve got. On the night of the launch, Eddie Casey [KC Sports] will be bringing some tops for some of the club representatives to wear on the night.

“We also got a lot of support and encouragement from Niall Brennan, the principal of Loughegar National School, who asked me to come in and do some handball coaching with the kids. They have been a big help in driving handball forward here.”

While the handball wall and the club are located in Clonkill/Loughegar, Eoiny insists that the club and the facility are not strictly Clonkill/Loughegar enterprises. Membership and involvement from handballers in other parishes is welcome.

And that goes for handballers of all ages. “We will have coaching for the kids, but we want to target adult membership as well, all the way up to masters level,” said Eoiny. Sessions are for all ages and all skill levels.

“All are welcome, from surrounding parishes as well. It’s less about Clonkill and more about generating more widespread interest in handball.

“Generations ago, handball was hugely popular. There are shells of old alleys all around the county where handball was played week in, week out. It sort of died off a bit then, and stayed on in places like Mullingar and Delvin.

“But in recent years, it’s really started to get going again, thanks to Robbie McCarthy and his success. It popped up in Multyfarnham as well, where there are some great handballers.

“It’s a great thing to have to go straight into for the winter, after the hurling and football finishes.”

It was with this idea in mind that last year, Eoiny sat down with fellow Clonkill hurler Niall Mitchell – himself one of the county’s most accomplished handballers – and Clonkill Hurling Club chairman Ollie Scally to discuss the formation of a handball club locally.

Before there was ever a club or a wall, Eoiny and Niall regularly used the hall at the Clonkill clubhouse to play rounds of handball, so it made sense to try and organize the sport locally.

“The hall is used for lots of things – indoor soccer and badminton among the other sports,” Eoiny added. “While there’s just one court with a wall at the minute, the entire hall allows the guts of 30 handballers to play at one time.

“The hurling club, for example, brings their U17 team in to play handball as a form of training, so the hall is ideal.

“Richie Hogan, who will be doing the launch for us on Wednesday, will tell you that handball helped him in loads of ways, and not just as a hurler. It’s a high-pace game, the ball moves very fast, and it’s great for developing your reflexes and hand/eye co-ordination.

“But it’s also great for your physical and aerobic fitness. It involves lots of sprints, and really helps your balance and agility.”

The launch kicks off at 6pm on Wednesday, and as well as talks by Richie Hogan and Eoiny about the sport, there will be a handball exhibition involving Clonkill’s own Niall Mitchell and other handballers. Refreshments will be laid on by the club.

The following Sunday (November 7), Clonkill Handball Club will commence 10 mornings of underage coaching at the clubhouse, and on the Monday, the club will be taking bookings for singles, doubles and group handball sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays (6pm to 8.15pm). There will be a per-head fee of €5 for each night, to help cover the cost of running the clubhouse.

For more details on club membership fees, the forthcoming Sunday morning underage handball coaching programme, and bookings for handball sessions, contact Eoin Price on 087 9249286 or email [email protected].

The club can also be found on Facebook at facebook.com/ClonkillHandballClub.

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