The focus of the county may be on Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada next Sunday but for Jamie Murray and Martin Raftery, the focus will definitely be in Kells as the Leitrim pair contest the All-Ireland Handball Junior B Doubles Final, writes Michgael McGee.
Leitrim’s Jamie Murray from Fenagh & Martin Raftery from Drumshanbo travel to Kells to contest the Martin Donnelly All-Ireland Junior B 60 x 30 doubles against Wexford’s David Kenny and Diarmuid Smyth (1.30 pm start) and, in the process, bring home and historic first ever All-Ireland Handball doubles title for the County.
The Wexford duo scored a facile 21-1, 21-8 victory over Cavan’s Shane Briody & Marcus Sheridan in their semi-final duel but Jamie is confident that the Leitrim pair can prevail on the day - “We are very much looking forward to a great final with Wexford.
“This year, we concentrated on the 60 x 30 even though I would have liked to have taken part in the One-Wall Nationals this year, commented Murray, “Martin and myself have put in a huge amount of time, effort & dedication into training this year. Hopefully all the hard work will pay off and we can pull off an historic All-Ireland doubles title together.”
Murray & Raftery readily acknowledge the great work of coach and mentor Peter Heaney, the well known Leitrim & Connacht Handball official, for nurturing the player’s early talent. The Leitrim men train four nights of the week in the top class Drumkeerin 60 x 30 handball court situated at the St. Brigid’s GAA Park.
Last week with the help of World handball champion Donal Wrynn, the lads were put through their paces.
In the Connacht Final, Murray & Raftery crushed Mayo’s Peter Cassidy & Chris Gavaghan in straight games. Drumkeerin was the venue for their semi-final clash against Tipperary’s Kevin Dempsey & Michael Purcell who were considered by many to be the favourites for the title. In a gruelling two hour match, Murray & Raftery had a tremendous struggle and with the help of a packed Drumkeerin centre the Leitrim Lions roared to a famous win by 5-21, 21-19, 21-11.
Drumshanbo clubman Raftery’s last major achievement came when he reached the All-Ireland U-16 doubles final with Emmet Mahon in 2003. The same year he was awarded the Connacht Juvenile handball player of the year. Eight years on, Martin is back in an All-Ireland final, this time in the Junior B doubles decider. Martin’s two sisters Deirdre & Sandra are also involved in the sport and hold two Connacht handball titles to their credit.
His doubles partner Jamie Murray has numerous underage Connacht titles and was runner up in the One Wall Nationals in the Men’s C grade three years ago.
All the hard work is almost done and the clock is swiftly clicking down to Sunday for D day. It is expected the duo will have great support from Leitrim as they endeavour to deliver an historic first All-Ireland handball doubles title to the County.