20 September 2010

Loughmacrory, Co. Tyrone

Loughmacrory, Co. Tyrone
Photographs and information provided by P. O'Brien, September 2010

The present Loughmacrory Handball Alley, Ulster’s first covered 60x30, was officially opened on Sunday, 13th April 1969 and handball has continued to be played there to the present date, but handball had been played on the same site from a much earlier time.

A souvenir programme titled “A Hundred Years of Handballing”, produced to mark the opening of the new alley in 1969, tells us that in 1932 local men Owenie McKernan and Jimmy Mullan, under the direction of Loughmacrory curate Fr Stephen Taggart, collected ten pounds, bought the gate house to Loughmacrory Lodge and built a ball alley on the site.

Micky John Kelly, still involved in Loughmacrory handball to this day, recalls playing there in the 1940’s and at that time the alley was open with no backwall, the front wall sixteen feet high with netting wire on top, and a clay floor.

This open alley was modernised several times over the years and handball continued to be played until 1967 when the sidewalls were blown down in a severe windstorm. Locals were determined that this would not be the end of handball in Loughmacrory and a committee was formed, fundraising took place, the site cleared and the present 60 x 30 built, mainly by voluntary labour. A community hall was built alongside the handball alley and, in 1981, a new international size court added. Handball continues to flourish in Loughmacrory


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