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Round-up: High standard across the board at Junior Nationals

A lot of familiar names came to the fore at the Irish Junior Nationals, which took place in Kilkenny, Carlow and Laois venues over the weekend and produced some brilliant handball.

Top of the pile in the male grades was Kilkenny’s Kyle Jordan, who defeated his Sligo rival Cormac Finn 15-7, 15-7 in the 19&U Singles final.

Finn won the 40x20 and 60x30 Minor Singles titles against Jordan in 2022 but the Kilfane man has come roaring back of late to get the upper hand in the trials for the USHA Juniors and now in the Irish Junior Nationals.

Kyle defeated Cork’s Eoghan Daly in the semi-final; Daly saw off Tiarnan O’Rourke of Monaghan (15-12, 15-13), with the Ulster player going on to win the plate.

The Girls 19&U title also went to Kilkenny as Amy Brennan turned the tables on Clare’s Leah Minogue. Amy lost last year’s Minor Singles All-Ireland final to Tyrone’s Clodagh Munroe in a nailbiting tiebreaker but got some consolation here, winning 3-15, 15-7, 11-3, playing some scintillating handball in what was a high-quality renewal.

Minogue beat Una Brophy (Laois) in the semi-final, 15-10, 15-4.

The Girls 17&U crown was won by in-form Wexford player Jodie Keeling. St Joseph's right-hander Jodie has enjoyed an amazing run of success of late, landing major titles in 40x20, softball and wallball at the tail end of last year and adding the USHA title in San Francisco.

She saw off the talented Una Duggan from Kilkenny in the final on a 15-10, 15-5 scoreline.

Another player who has been on a magnificent run is Armagh’s Fíachra Ó Dhúill. The Whitecross man defeated Tomás O’Connor from Cork, Kilkenny left-hander Conor Doyle (15-12, 15-12) before defeating Wexford’s Conor Horan in the decider.

In the last few months alone, Fíachra has won the A dropdown at the Kingscourt Shoot-Out, the 17&U Singles in the Golden Gloves, the All-Ireland Wallball Minor Singles and several other prestigious titles.

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Horan turned back Darragh Murphy from Cork and Kilkenny’s John Hayes (who won the plate) in the earlier rounds. Two of the stand-out matches in this grade were Niall Drennan defeating Joshua Roche in a tiebreaker and Conor Doyle subsequently edging past Niall, also in a tiebreaker.

The Boys 15&U title went to Kilkenny’s Anthony Clifford. The powerful Talbot’s Inch man defeated Eoin O Doireáin from Inis Mor and clubmate Andrew Brennan in the semi-final before defeating Galway’s Gavin Kelly in the final.

Gavin came through his semi-final against fellow Abbeyknockmoy player Caleb Donnellan which meant those two clubs produced the four 15&U semi-finalists, a fantastic achievement.

Cork have been to the fore in juvenile handball and Boherbue’s Carmel Kelleher enhanced her growing reputation by taking the 15&U Girls crown back to the Rebel County. Carmel won the final in straight games against Tyrone’s Laura Duff (15-10, 15-1).

Galway’s Oisin Ó Neachtain emerged victorious in a very strong 13&U Boys field. Oisin defeated Kilkenny’s Jake O’Neill (Kells) in the decider, 15-11, 15-3. The Micheál Breathnachs lad added this success to his victory in the All-Ireland Wallball U14 championships.

Jake had a great game in the semi-final, coming through in a tiebreaker against Tyrone’s Ciaran McCrystal; Oisin beat Shane Doyle from Windgap, also in a tiebreaker.

The Girls 13&U title was won by the excellent Amy Brosnan from Cork, who got the better of Niamh Drennan from Kilkenny in the final. Amy, from the Ballydesmond club, also recently won the Tim Healy tournament U13 title.

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