14 August 2010

Dunlavin, Co. Wicklow

Dunlavin, Co. Wicklow
Photographed by E.Timoney, August 2010
Indoor photographs and articles below provided by C. Lawlor March 2023 Alley was roofed 30 years ago, and is reported to have maple floor from a local hall
Handball in Dunlavin (1984). Handball is one of our oldest national games. It dates back to Celtic times and is truly an Irish game. When the G.A.A. was founded in 1884 it was only natural that handball should become one of the codes governed by the Association. However, handball did not come under the protective wing of the G.A.A. until the present century. Before this, the game was organised in a rather haphazard manner, with very little in the way of leagues or championships. Tournaments and challenge matches were, however, common. An early mention of handball in Dunlavin is found in 1895: ‘On Sunday next, a handball match between J. and T. Walsh of Ballymore and M. Valentine and P. Gorman of Dunlavin for £5 a side will be played on Dunlavin Ball Court at 2 p.m. The opening game was played at Ballymore on Sunday 18th August. After and exciting and close contest for three hours, the Dunlavin players were victorious. Five games of 15 aces each were to be played and the party winning the most out of the five were to be declared the winners. First game: Ballymore 15, Dunlavin 13. Second game: Dunlavin 15, Ballymore 8. Third game: Ballymore 15, Dunlavin 11. The fourth game was run up to 14 by Ballymore, but by some very clever and scientific play on the part of the Wicklow men, they hit out their opponents hands and got the set of the game. The remaining game was won in easy fashion by the Dunlavin men, who deserve the greatest praise for their plucky play against such formidable and muscular opponents as the brothers Walsh. The committee of the Dunlavin Handball Association intend to expend a substantial sum on the renovations of the court, and for the development, a small charge of admittance will be made on Sundays. All lovers of the good old Irish game may expect to see a manly exhibition of it on that day’ (Leinster Leader, 31 August 1895). This piece shows us that there was a ball alley in Dunlavin in 1895. However, it was probably a three-walled court (open of course) and I believe that the renovations mentioned in the article involved the building of a back-wall. The game in those days was a harder game to decide than the best of three games of today, as we learn from this piece from 1899: ‘Handball – Westport (Mayo) v. Dunlavin (Wicklow), 11 games at 15 aces per game. Dunlavin 6 games; Westport 5 games; Prize £20. Players: T. Torsney and P. Gorman (Dunlavin). M. Greally and G. Molloy (Westport). Play lasted four hours without a break, with the Dunlavin team being the first team to beat the Mayo side’(Leinster Leader 7 October 1899). Heralding in the twentieth century we note in 1900 the following snippet: Paddy Gleeson, shop assistant at Hoeys. Dunlavin, in a challenge handball game, winning 3 games to 2 (Leinster Leader 19 May 1900). For the following 50 years, handball continued to be run on an informal basis. There were tournaments and challenge matches galore, but central control and organised championships were lacking. This did not detract from the quality of the play or the players however. During these years, Dunlavin produced some very fine handballers indeed. The Flood brothers, Paddy and Jim were renowned for their skilful play. The low and hard service of Jim, in particular, was feared far and wide. Harry Corrigan was another name to figure prominently in these years. The Carrolls, too, were very fine players and one of the local characters of the game was the ‘Boundaway’. Many other players, too numerous to mention, kept the flame of handball lighting in Dunlavin in the years between 1900 and 1953. The year 1953 is a watershed in the game of handball. It divides the modern game from its predecessor. In 1953, the first organised handball cham¬pionships were held in Co. Wicklow. Considering the standard of the game in Dunlavin, it is no surprise to see that Dunlavin had winners in these championships. In 1953, Chris Lawlor and Tom Christie won the first ever junior doubles title in the county. Also in that year, Paddy Brophy won the novice singles title. After the first championship wins more success followed. This is a list of Dunlavin county and inter-county winners since that year: 1956—Junior Doubles: J. Brophy and C. Archbold. Novice Singles: P. Martin. 1958—Senior Doubles: C. Archbold and J. Brophy. Juvenile Singles: J. Corrigan. Juvenile Doubles: J. Corrigan and J. Byrne. Dunlavin also won the County League. 1959—In this year an All-Ireland title came to Dunlavin, M. Dwyer, playing with J. Clery of Tinahely, represented Wicklow, and they won the Leinster titles in the Minor Softball and Minor Hardball Doubles grades. They went on to win the All-Ireland title in the Minor Hardball Doubles grade. 1960—Junior Singles: M. Dwyer. Junior Doubles: M. Dwyer and P. Guing. Minor Singles: J. Corrigan. Under-14 Doubles: T. Dwyer and B. Corrigan. 1961—Senior Singles: M. Dwyer. Senior Doubles: M. Dwyer and C. Archbold. Minor Doubles: D. Dwyer and T. Corrigan. 1962—Minor Singles: T. Dwyer. Senior Doubles: M. Dwyer and C. Archbold. 1963—Senior Singles: M. Dwyer. Senior Doubles: M. Dwyer and C. Archbold. Minor Singles: T. Dwyer. 1964—Junior Singles: J. O'Reilly. Minor Singles: T. Dwyer. Minor Doubles: T. Dwyer and M. Moore. Dunlavin won the league every year from 1959 to 1964 also. 1965—Senior Doubles: C. Archbold and M. Dwyer. 1967—Minor Singles: P. Brophy. 1968—Intermediate Doubles: J. O’Reilly and P. Guing. About this time, the ball alley in Dunlavin was rendered unplayable by the demolition of two of the walls. It remained unplayable for some years, but thanks to the efforts of local handball enthusiasts, it was rebuilt (with straighter and more square walls) and 1974 saw a grand reopening of the alley. The Parish Priest, Fr. Brian Byrne, blessed the ball alley and there was a prestigious tournament held there that day. With the return of handball-playing facilities came the return of cham¬pionships to Dunlavin players. The years between 1974 and 1984 saw championship and league wins in all grades for Dunlavin. The players involved were: Michael Dwyer, Christy Archbold, Jim Carthy, Johnny Murphy, Sean Moore, Vincent Murphy, Jackie Corrigan, Billy Corrigan. Kevin Archbold, Chris Lawlor, Barney Flood, Eamonn Deering, Stephen Carroll, Mark Deering (Jnr.). Many juvenile titles were also won by the club, the most recent being the 1983 under-16 singles title taken by Pat Foley. Between 1981 and 1983, major renovations were made to the ball alley. The alley was roofed and a wooden floor installed. These were obtained by the club when the old Imaal Hall was demolished. Dunlavin ball alley can now compete with any ball alley in the country. It is hoped shortly to build dressing rooms and showers behind the alley. Finally, looking to the future, I must mention the American type of handball (the size of the court is 40 feet by 20 feet, compared to the traditional Irish 60 feet by 30 feet). County Wicklow now boasts two 40 x 20 courts at Arklow and Rathdrum. Last year, 1983, was the first year that county championships were held in the 40 x 20 code of handball in Co. Wicklow. Is it an omen of continued success to note that the first winners of the 40 x 20 Senior Doubles were Dunlavin's Michael Dwyer and Jim Carthy and the first winners of the 40 x 20 Junior Doubles were also from Dunlavin — Paddy Archbold and Chris Lawlor. With one member, Michael Dwyer, holding the present All-Ireland over-40s title, the club looks forward to continued success and hopes to achieve some successes, at least, in this, the G.A.A. centenary year. Also, the handballers wish every success to the Dunlavin G.A.A. Club this year, beginning with the success of this, their centenary year book. Go n-eiri an t-adh libh agus guim gach rath agus sonas ar an bhfoireann. Ladies’ handball in Dunlavin (2020). It’s only fair and fitting that the ladies’ handball club in Dunlavin should be remembered in these diversions as well as the mens’. In the 1970s and 80s, the ladies had their own club and operated separately from the men. Use of the alley was set aside at certain times on certain days for their games, and I think they used it on two nights a week (Tuesday and Thursday?) when the alley was roofed in and lights were installed. The ladies played in competitions within the county and beyond. I’m sorry that I don’t know who won which championships, leagues or tournaments, so I can’t include any detailed lists of winners here. I know that they played in alleys all over Wicklow and in other places, including Handball Headquarters in Croke Park. I’ll probably forget a few – so I apologise in advance for that – but these memories are forty years old or more, so please forgive my forgetfulness. Anyhow, here’s the list of ladies that I remember playing in Dunlavin: Anna Mae Walsh, Sheila McCann, Mary Carty, Noreen Foley all played handball. Anna Mae and Sheila partnered up to win many competitions. Eileen Archbold and her mother Patricia, Christine Moore, Marie Phelan [and Eileen?], Teresa Corrigan [and Frances?], Ann Keogh, Pauline Foley [and Margaret?], Margaret Carroll and Julia Lee. There were many friendly competitions with the Ballymore-Eustace Ladies Handball Club. In 1974 Patricia Archbold won an All-Ireland singles title. Eileen Archbold qualified for the Tailteann Games in 1977 and 1978, winning silver and bronze medals respectively. Eileen and Christine Moore also teamed up to win many doubles competitions as well. I’m sure there were others, but they escape my memory at present. I think there were some younger girls coming through in the juvenile ranks too but I just can’t remember names, I’m afraid. Were there some Floods, Foleys and Murphys? Do I remember Samantha Downes playing handball? I’m really not sure, but perhaps someone reading this could add to the list, or correct me where I am wrong. There is a real dearth of handball photographs in comparison to, for example, GAA or soccer ones. Sadly, and this holds true for the mens’ club as well as the ladies’ one. No one really took pictures in the handball alley, and written records are scant or no longer extant. As I say, it all happened some forty years ago…


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