St Brigid's Ciaran McCallan in Handball thriller! 2016-03-22 13:15:00

Competing in his first All-Ireland final in the Masters grade, Ciaran McCallan just lost out in a thrilling 2 hour marathon match to Sligo’s Shane Bruen.

Played at the very impressive multi-court handball complex in Kingscourt, Cavan, Ciaran started slowly and it was clear that first final nerves were playing a part. Well behind on a scoreline of 19-8, his competitive spirt shone through as ace by ace he fought his way back over the next 20 minutes to 19-20. It looked as if he could force an amazing comeback victory in the first game but Bruen’s nerve held  to win the first game 21-19. In the second game Ciaran started much stronger and was literally throwing himself around the court to make some incredible retrievals and re-kills. After establishing a convincing lead of 18-9 it was his turn to find it tough to finish out the game. Eventually Bruen fought back to within an ace of McCallan at 18-19. His comeback was helped when the St Brigid’s player went over on his left ankle and had to take an injury time-out. After applying some ice Ciaran went back into battle - which is an apt phrase for what followed.  Exchanging rallies both players fought for supremacy and a full 10 mins later Ciaran had tied the score at one game all.

The 5-min break before commencing the third game decider was very much appreciated by both players but on resumption Bruen raced into a 10-0 lead as he was the quicker to recover from the exertions of the first two games. Again McCallan showed his fighting qualities as he improved his serving and began to make inroads into Bruen’s lead. The pace of the game was beginning to show with both players breathing heavily and taking their allowed time-outs. The severity of the exchanges was further evidenced when Bruen started cramping and had to take his final time-out to recover. McCallan’s come-back continued and the score reached 17-18 in favour of Bruen.

It is often said in sport that you have to be lucky as well as good and this is what then transpired. An almost perfect serve down the right by McCallan clung to the side wall and seemed virtually un-gettable. If Bruen missed his return, the score would be tied at 18 all with McCallan still serving. Unfortunately for Ciaran, the luck turned Shane’s way and his dispairing lunge at the serve barely connected but the ball rolled out of the right corner to the dismay of Ciaran and the St Brigid’s fans. It proved the final twist in the match as Bruen managed to serve out the third game 21-17, to win what was an epic match.

Afterwards, all who watched were full of praise for both players for their terrific commitment, competitive spirit and  sportsmanship. Great credit to the Sligo player who came out on top. The St Brigid’s player fully justified his wins in Leinster and the semifinal and will have learned invaluable lessons for the future. His fighting performance will no doubt bring him satisfaction when the immediate disappointment will dissipate somewhat. Ciaran’s commitment to training and to improving his game will surely pay dividends in terms of All-Ireland victory in the coming seasons.

St Brigids GAA Club,
Russell Park, Navan Road, Dublin 15