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Loic Clement and Miren Larrarte Mayoz take gold in the Netherlands


The Dutch Open was another brilliant weekend of handball action, writes Paul Fitzpatrick.



The fourth stop on the 2023/24 Euro 1-Wall Tour, the Stedon Dutch Open, took place in the picturesque Friesian town of Franeker in north Holland in late January and produced another action-packed weekend of high-quality handball.


Once again, there was a bumper entry – four of the five stops this year have broken the 100 entrants mark, which is a record for the Tour – and as usual, all grades were closely contested.


Franeker is approximately 90 minutes north of Amsterdam and the event was held in a superb facility (Sporthal De Trije), with eight indoor courts, ample changing rooms and a bar and restaurant on site, which also hosted the banquet on the Saturday night.



Kill Shot arrived to the courts on Friday evening to find players from Ireland, Holland, Belgium and the Basque Country getting in their final rounds of sparring ahead of the big event.


Action got underway on Saturday morning and the singles ran through till that evening, with the doubles, as is customary, running off on Sunday.


Pride of place in the Men’s Open Singles went to Belgian number one Loic Clement. The left-hander played superbly to come through his group and defeated Jurrit Osinga (25-11) and Lur Ziarrusta (25-18) to advance to the final, where he met the in-form Luke Thomson in a battle of the lefties.



Thomson was in dominant form in his quarter-final and semi-final as he despatched Pieter jan Leijenaar (25-2) and Fiachra Ó Dúill (25-8) to march on to the final, despite carrying a nasty finger injury.


In the decider, there was little to choose between the pair. Clement established a good lead but tightened up a little on the home stretch as he sought to win his first Open Singles title of the year, having been beaten in the French Open final.


However, roared on by a large support, the powerful Belgian closed it out with a terrific left underhand kill to seal a famous win.


The Women’s Open Singles crown went to the Basque Country as Miren Larrarte Mayoz saw off Ireland’s Aoife McCarthy 25-18 in a high-quality final.


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The Basque woman was in great form as she defeated Marrit Zeinstra 25-10 at the penultimate stage, with McCarthy a 25-19 victor over Harmke Siegersma in the other semi-final.


Beaten at the last eight stage were Corrie Kroondijk, who fell to McCarthy (25-15), and Sabrina Hughes, who lost to Zeinstra (25-6).


The English duo of Thomson and Dan Grant continued their superb run of form in the Men’s Open Doubles. The pre-eminent team on the Tour again have been dominant all season and continued their run with a 25-19 final win over Clement and Christian Blackaby, who had seen off Roméo Van Neste and Noah Daubechies in a 25-24 thriller in the semi-final.



Thomson and Grant defeated Jurrit Osinga and Pieter jan Leijenaar in their semi, which was also decided on a wafer-thin 25-24 margin, again showing the value of the 25-point, rally-scoring format which is conducive to close, competitive matches.


The Women’s Open Doubles was won by the impressive duo of Marrit Zeinstra and Anne Monfils, who beat Harmke Siegersma and Coorie Kroondijk 25-20.




The B Singles is always an extremely hard-fought grade and attracted 32 players on this occasion, with Co Tyrone right-hander Paul Donnelly taking top honours after a gruelling day of action.


Donnelly’s spectacular ‘double dive’ rally in his quarter-final against American David Schiller was an instant classic on social media and a highlight of the weekend.





In the Over 40s grade, James Doyle affirmed his position as the leading overage player on Tour as he took yet another gold medal, defeating Jasper Boomsma 21-11 in the final. Both semi-finals were 21-20, Boomsa defeating ‘Lefty Seb’ Potiez and Doyle edging past American ace Jack Safros.




Meanwhile, the Kerry-Wexford partnership of John Joe Quirke and Sean Nolan claimed a popular win in the Over-40 Doubles grade. The Tour regulars battled their way past Safros and Dublin’s Anthony O’Sullivan 21-18 in the final, having won a fiery semi-final 21-19 against Boomsma and Michel Van Der Veen.


Overall, it was another fantastic weekend of handball and thoroughly enjoyable. Once more, it re-affirmed the rising participation and standard in mainland Europe.


(Having participated in the Open Doubles for the first time, riding shotgun with the brilliant 18-year-old Ó Dúill, I can testify readily to the standard of play!)





The venue was exceptional. The town itself, intersected by a canal and featuring some beautiful architecture, was smallish but ideal for travelling players, many of whom remarked on the extraordinary cleanliness.


“It was a real pleasure to be back in the Netherlands for another superb Dutch Open featuring some incredible talent both in the Men’s and Women’s fields, in particular it was great to finally see the Basque women playing in an event and showing us what they’ve got,” stated Euro 1-Wall’s Dan Grant.


“As always, many thanks to the KNKB for running an event in a huge venue with great hospitality and even First Aid on site.”



Next stop on Tour is the eagerly-awaited UK Open, which takes place in London this coming weekend and has attracted a large entry.


Star attraction is American icon Timbo Gonzalez, whose matches will be sure to wow the fans.


Full results from the Dutch Open are available on the Tournify app.

 

Team Kill Shot would like to thank all of those who supported us so far this season. We will be in attendance at the UK Open; if you wish to pre-order or reserve gloves, goggles, shirts or apparel and save on the shipping cost, please drop us a line in the next 48 hours!


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