15 November 2009

Franciscan Friary, Multyfarnham, Co. Westmeath

Handball alley at Franciscan Friary, Multyfarnham, Co. Westmeath.
Photographed by E.Timoney, Sept 2009
Part of this property has been sold and now is a Nursing Home. The Alley is part of this and is no longer used as an Alley.

The following detailed history was written by Jimmy Ward in February 2020 and sent to E. Timoney .

Handball in Multyfarnham, Co. Westmeath.

The two 60x30 Handball alleys in the Friary were always a busy place and a hive of activity. Bro. Hugh Gallagher O.F.M. arrived in 1969 and took a huge interest in the sport. Although it was mainly a summer sport, it was always difficult to get a game in the evenings and after Mass on a Sunday. The noise of the ball on the open courts was constant on a “Winner Stays In Basis”. Players showing their skills in the mid to late 70’s were Martin Melia, Des Garry, Jimmy Melia, Sean Ledwith, Tom Kelly, Christy Fox, Pat Kelly, Seamus Ledwith, James Cox, Ray Kelly, Jody Boylan, Patsy Gilchrist, Sean Feeney and many more.
This was when Brother Hugh along with the help of John Naughton, Jimmy Ward, Jack Mulvany, Jimmy Nally, Tim Ledwith and a few more started to get the youngsters of the Village involved and began coaching sessions. This coincided with Brother Hugh, The Friars and the Club Members fund raising to cover the courts, build dressing rooms, shower facilities and build a new American style 40x20 court.
The club was rewarded with “Little Ol’ Multy” becoming one of the best Juvenile Clubs in the country over the next decade, overtaking the county’s dominant clubs, namely Delvin and Mullingar.
The start of it was Liam Cassidy and his partner Seanie Murphy from Mullingar who won the 1979 U-15 Doubles All Ireland title defeating Cork opponents in the final 15-6, 15-9.
Caroline Tierney was next to put Multy on the map, winning the U-15 girls Singles title in 1980, beating her Kerry opponent in the final, 15-12, 15-10.
1981 saw Mike Naughton partnering Frank Kavanagh from Mullingar to the All-Ireland U-15 Doubles title beating their Cork opponents 15-7, 15-10 in the final. The next year Mike did the double with the same partner, winning both the 60x30 and 40x20 titles beating Tyrone opponents in both finals. Mike’s dad (John) was a very clever man and an astute coach. He wouldn’t leave a stone unturned in his research of an opponent. He would often drive the youngsters of the village to the venue of a future match, so they could get a feel for the court. This could happen maybe 3 / 4 days before the match.
Multy won the u-13 Community Games County title for the 1st time in 1982. They went on to capture the Leinster crown which qualified them for the Nationals in be played at Mosney. We were drawn against Connaught champions Killala from Mayo in the Semi Finals, who were hot favourites and defending champions, boasting two All-Ireland champions in their line-up. Multy played out of their skins defeating them in a tight finish. The following day they beat Ballingarry from Limerick convincingly and the celebrations started. The team that day was Seamus Wally, Shamie Ward, Ivan Whyte, Joseph Mulvanny and James Finnegan. The next year, Shamie Ward and Ivan Whyte were still underage. They were joined by Ray Coffey, Pual Finnegan and Denis Nolan. They won the County and Leinster again to qualify for the Nationals. They justified their favourites tag and defeated their Clare and Cavan opponents in the semi-final and final respectively. The next 3 years, they qualified for the Nationals, but couldn’t repeat their exploits from the previous years, finishing 2nd and 3rd twice. The already mentioned players were joined by Alan Tierney, Leonard Coffey, Peter Kearney, Gerry Ledwith, Jarlath Lennon and Ciaran Allen as some players went overage.
1983 saw Shamie Ward win his 1st singles All-Ireland in the u-13 grade defeating a Limerick opponent in the final 15-6, 15-11. He repeated the feat in 1984 winning the U-14 singles title defeating a Cork opponent in the final 15-9, 15-7. However he didn’t have it all his own way that year as he had to meet the formidable D.J. Carey in the Leinster final. D.J. had beaten the Multy lad a few months earlier in a close Leinster 40x20 final. 3 Months of intense training with his dad Jimmy and the development of a “Lob” serve, meant that Shamie was a different kettle of fish this time defeating D.J. in an epic final 15-11, 15-8.
1984 saw a young team travel down to Wexford to play in the Feile na nGael. After coming through the earlier rounds they were crowned Feile “A” champions beating Tyrone opponents in the final. The 4 lads involved that weekend were Ivan Whyte, Ray Coffey, Joseph Mulvanny and Shamie Ward. Shamie also won the skills title. In September 1985, Shamie was entered into the U-15 trials to represent Ireland in the World 40x20 championships to be played over December and January in Los Angeles. 64 players entered and was played over a weekend in Clarecastle, Co. Clare. Only 4 were left on Sunday morning, where Shamie beat Fergal Maughan (Roscommon) in the semi final 21-6, 21-9. Later that day he beat Jimmy Mc Keown, 21-15, 21-4 from Cavan who had beaten D.J. Carey in a previous round.
In December that year, Shamie U-15 joined Walter O’Connor (Meath) U
-17, Ducksie Walsh (Kilkenny) U-19 and team manager Jim Heffernan from Dublin on the plane to L.A. for the trip of a lifetime. Shamie seeded 2, went through the 1st 3 rounds without too much problems defeating 2 Americans and a Mexican. He was beaten 21-20, 21-19 by an unseeded Canadian in the World Quarter Final. Later that year Shamie continued his winning ways when he beat Fergal Maughan from Roscommon 15-6, 15-4. in the All-Ireland U-16 singles 60x30 final.
1988 saw on of Brother Hugh’s proudest moment when Multyfarnham Agricultural College won the All-Ireland 3rd level colleges title defeating Trinity College in the semi-final and Sligo I.T. in the final. The team that year was Kevin Kiernan (Westmeath), Michael Brennan (Kilkenny), Shamie Ward (Westmeath) and Niall Hosey (Carlow).
A change of playing times in the Friary courts and emigration hit the club badly in the late 1980s. A mens team of Liam Cassidy, Des Garry, Martin Melia, Tom Kelly, Mick Naughton and Shamie Ward won the County league team competition in 1987. In 1989, 5 out of the 6 had emigrated.


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