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Team Ireland hoping for a clean sweep in San Fran

Team Ireland jetted off for the USHA Junior Nationals in San Francisco today (Friday) and Kill Shot were there bright and early to see them off.

Team Ireland junior coach Aengus Cunningham is hopeful of bringing home plenty of titles – and maybe, if everything goes to plan, even a clean sweep – at the USHA Junior Nationals this weekend.

The St Coman’s clubman and Tyrone’s Eilise McRory are coaches for the six-strong team, which is captained by Kilkenny’s Kyle Jordan.

“I won’t relax until we are literally on the plane, you’re always worried that you might have forgotten something, passports or Visa issues. Fingers crossed that everything will go well,” Aengus told this morning at Terminal 2.

“This is a seriously strong team, very, very strong. You look at them there and you would have strong expectations for all six players, in truth. If they perform to the best of their ability, which I’m sure they will, I think each and every one of them has a strong chance of winning and we can’t ask for any more than that really.”

The squad have had two collective training sessions since the trials but have been in constant contact as they have prepared for the trip to the west coast. The recent cold snap in Ireland did not help in terms of replicating conditions (it is around 14 degrees in San Francisco at present) but the coaches have been advising the team on how best to acclimatise.

“We’ve been telling them for the last month to train in warm courts, turn on the heat, I know that’s a rare thing in Ireland although it’s not as bad as it used to be. Another thing is to take on plenty of fluid, hydrate every time you come out of the court. The courts are much warmer in America and because they’re warmer, they’re much faster.

“They have been training with the American ball but in four weeks, you’re not going to make any major fundamental changes to their style or anything like that. There’s no point, you’d be caught between two stools then.

“There were a few little things, tactical awareness about time-outs and things, but that’s relevant to all codes around the world. But the heat is the big thing, you sweat a lot more and the ball moves faster – it is a lot different when you’re coming from igloos in Ireland!”

For Eilise, a top player in her own right, this is one of the highlights of her handball career to date.

“I think this is the first time travelling to the US for a lot of them so it will be a big experience for them and I suppose being away from their families over Christmas too, it’s a completely different experience. I think they are looking forward to it and that’s always a good thing,” she said.

“I put my application in on the off-chance, I didn’t actually think I was going to be selected. To be picked was a massive thing really, now that I’ve thought about, it’s pretty big. It has to be one of the highlights for me.

“Obviously I coach in the club as well, volunteering, but this is huge.

“The kids are great, there are no issues with any of them, they’re all very nice. They are well prepared, we can’t argue with the team that we have to be fair.”

The trip is extra special for the St Coman’s club as Cunningham also coaches 17&U rep Rory Carthy back home in Roscommon.

“It certainly is nice. I’m awfully happy for him and I’m very proud of him,” Aengus said.

“I’ve been training him since he was seven years of age, that’s 10 years I’ve been training him. He was quiet then, he’s still very quiet! But he’s a very dedicated lad. I did fancy his chances of making the team but of course he went and played a stupid football challenge match (laughs) three weeks beforehand and messed up his ankle and we actually thought he wasn’t going to be able to play the trials at all.

“But he came through three tough games and I’m very happy for him. It’s nice to see a kid that you have been with for years going over to America and representing his country.”

Aengus also paid special thanks to Kill Shot Gloves for sponsoring two sets of gloves for each player on the squad.

"It's a lovely gesture and greatly appreciated," he said.

The Irish squad is: Kyle Jordan (Kilfane, Kilkenny, U19), Rory Carthy (St Coman’s, Roscommon, U17), Anthony Clifford (Talbot’s Inch, Kilkenny, U15), Jodie Keeling (St Joseph’s, Wexford, U19), Leah Minogue (Tuamgraney, Clare, U17), Carmel Kelleher (Boherbue, Cork, U15), Aengus Cunningham (St Coman’s, Roscommon, coach), Eilise McRory (Breacach, Tyrone, coach).

Check back tomorrow for interviews some of the Team Ireland players.


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