Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Tennis, Handball & Lacrosse

Andy Murray

Didn't your heart break for him? If he had been Irish we would have put him on an open topped bus and paraded him around the country for 6 months. He was trying to be the first British man in 74 years  to win at Wimbledon. He failed in his bid but became a national hero in the attempt.
Fred Perry


Did you know that our lacrosse team has been doing very well in the European championship?
Here is the report:

Story by Alan Ryan
The Irish lacrosse teams have been doing very well of late, with the women’s team finishing 8th and the mens team winning a silver medal against a strong English side in the final of the European Championships in Amsterdam.
The performances of both teams were acknowledged by Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring recently when he said “I would like to congratulate everyone involved in lacrosse in Ireland. As a minority sport, it relies on the support and dedication of a large number of volunteers. It’s great to see their efforts being rewarded with this achievement.”

Among Jer. Kennelly's huge collection of photographs is this one of a lacrosse team. Could it be that we had such a teamsport in these parts at one stage?

Where would we be without sport?

Junior Griffin has put together a history of Listowel Handball. These notes that he shares with us here are his own memories of great times on the Handball alley.


John (Junior) Griffin

When was handball first played in Listowel? When was the alley (as it is more commonly called) built by the banks of the Feale River?
Regretfully, the answer to these questions concerning the founding of the game of handball in Listowel has been lost in the passage of time. No records or minute books of that time are available and most of those who might have played handball in years gone by are long since gone.
But one thing is sure, the alley was built and handball played in Listowel in the late 19th or the early years of the 20th century and the one name that those of us who played the game in the 1940’s to the 1960’s were told about was that a club founder member was the late Joe James, O’Connell’s Avenue.
The Listowel Alley was, of course, a three wall alley, 60ft. by30ft, with the front wall being part of the “Big Bridge” and it was to this that the two side walls were joined, with wire netting placed on top of all three walls to prevent the ball from being struck on to the road or into the river. Incidentally, the railings that can still be seen on top of the side walls are part of the Lartigue rail track which was closed down in 1924.   

In a message written for the match programme to celebrate the opening of the Sportsfield football pitch, now the Frank Sheehy Park, on May 15th, 1960 by the late Dr. Seamus Wilmot, Registrar of the National University of Ireland, Dr Wilmot wrote;

“When I recall the Listowel that I knew before the First World War, two places come immediately to my mind—the Ball Alley and the Sportsfield.
So do other places, of course, like Kenny’s Heights, The Long Inch, the Knight’s and Pat’s Field, but the reason, I think, that my memory jumps firstly to the Sportsfield (or The Field, as it was always known) and the Alley, is that they were the only two places where we enjoyed freedom, unrestricted in the case of the Alley, conditional as to the Sportsfield, the limitation as regards the latter only serving to give its authorized enjoyment an edge that was not always to be found in the unalloyed freedom of the Alley.” 
In the same programme Bryan McMahon was described as a “well known handballer and hurler” in his youth”

So, as one can glean from Dr. Wilmot’s message handball was played in Listowel before the First World War.

In the nineteen- teens and the twenties, other names associated with Listowel Handball along with Joe James, Seamus Wilmot and Bryan McMahon were Frank Sheehy, Brendan Macauley, Michael Keane, Vangy O’Hanlon and Tony Chute to name just a few.
In a conversation about handball in Listowel Bryan McMahon passed on the following story to this writer many years ago.
It seems that a son of a local business man, who shall remain nameless, was an ardent handball fanatic but his skills at the game left a lot to be desired.

Indeed, he was looked upon as a soft touch by other players of that era.                      
Many, with no money in their pocket, would bet him a £1 per game and give him a handicap of plus 20 and the serve out of a game of 21, would then contrive to lose the first game, but on a doubles or quits basis would collect the £4 at the end of the second game. As one player remarked years later, it was his drinking money for the week.
The father was told of the son’s handball gambling and he was packed off to Argentina for a number of years on business.
To quote Bryan; “I went down to the Alley on one summer’s evening for a game and I could see someone seated at the Alley wearing a large sombrero. On getting closer, lo and behold, I saw that “xxxx” was back in town and back to the place he loved so well.”
But whether the lesson was learnt or not is another story.

More tomorrow........


  1. was following the irish lacrosse team in the european championship as my sons wife brother-in-law Tim Weir is one of the coaches.They were in the top10 in the world before the final and this should push them up.I checked all week during the tournament for results but not a line in any irish paper.The team is made up of irish born and of irish decent.One name caught my eye was a ODonoghue kid from pittsburgh and Listowel conections.If i remember years ago a ODonoghue family from Tanavalla left for pittsburgh and were involved in the bar business there.

  2. Thank you, Mike. I am delighted to give them a small bit of publicity. They did their country proud.
    You must get on to Tim Weir and investigate this Listowel connection.