Feb 2014 Winner – Maeve McElduff
A sustained level of growth during the past few years within Tyrone ladies handball has seen a number of players blaze a tail by recording notable triumphs.
Among them is a young Brackey teenager whose success on the double during the past few weeks has catapulted her into the limelight. Now Maeve McElduff is hoping to maintain the momentum of becoming the first ever winner of the county’s senior ladies title and also the All-Ireland Minor singles crown.
She comes from a family and club steeped in the sport. Her cousin Sean Kerr recently won the All-Ireland U-16 40×20 singles title, while another Brackey member, Johnny Woods, captured the minor crown to complete a unique double.
Maeve’s progress has certainly been noteworthy and reflects the stature of ladies handball within the county. As a result, she is a deserving winner of the UH’s Sports Personality of the month award for February.
“The Tyrone title was definitely very special since it was the first ever ladies senior to be played in the county. It was nice to win that and beat Lisa McAleer who has been one of the most successful ladies players in the county,” said Maeve.
‘It was also the first time that I’ve ever come up against her. She won the first game fairly easily, and then I came back well in the second. The tie-breaker was very nerve-wracking and point for point through it all. Winning that way was good.
“Over the past few years I’ve lost a few All-Ireland and other finals, so to come good this year has been brilliant. I won the one-wall title last year and to have captured the All-Ireland Minor was the icing on the cake.”
A student of the Loreto Convent in Omagh, these most recent titles have further marked Maeve’s progress in the sport.
She took up handball seriously during her final year at primary school and during the intervening few years has been steadily making her way through the various grades.
In 2012 she won the U-19 one-wall doubles title at the World Championships in Dublin and she also enjoyed success in the All-Ireland Colleges earlier this year. Add in numerous other titles and it’s clear that she is indeed a special talent. But those are just a brief snapshot of the achievements recorded in the past decade or so.
Chief among them was the All-Ireland Minor title which was claimed at the end of March in Kells, Co Meath. A most impressive win over Katie Dagg from Kildare put Maeve into the final against Ciana Ni Churraoin. But a late confirmation that the Galway girl was conceding the final due to injury saw the Tyrone player secure the minor singles honours.
Incidentally, on the same weekend, her brother and coach, Conor, played in the All-Ireland U-21 final, only to lose to his opponent, Martin Mulkerrins from Galway.
Of course, the main task now for Maeve will be to maintain that as she approaches adult level, where top players such as Antrim’s Ashling Reilly and Fiona Shannon and Catriona Casey from Cork have been among the names to look out for during the past few seasons.
“This year is the first that Tyrone have had both the ladies and mens All-Ireland Minor titles. It has been a great year for the whole county,” she continued.
“The National championships were at the weekend and there was someone from Tyrone in nearly all the categories. It’s good to have that level of success.
“I’ve been playing handball since I was in primary seven and the fact that my big brother, Conor, is also my coach is also a big help. It’s good to have someone like that to offer advice and some useful tips.
“He’s definitely a big reason for my success, especially since he has played at a high level as well.
“My next target is the One-Wall championships, but it’s going to be tougher because I’ll have to enter in the Open event. The step up to senior is now the aim and it would be nice to get playing the top players.
“I’ve played Catriona Casey before in the She’s Ace competition. Hopefully, I’ll get more chances to test myself against the top players like her.
“I’m training about two or three evenings each week. I use the football training for the fitness, so I’m out nearly every night.
“It’s great for the whole of handball in Tyrone to have got their recognition. Any one of the handballers who have won recently would have deserved this.”
Hopes are high then that the UH Sports Personality of the month winner for February will be a force to be reckoned with as she enters the world of ladies adult handball with plenty of confidence for the future.
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