The important role that handball could play in the development, from a sport and recreational model, of young women across Kerry is illustrated by the involvement of three young players from East Kerry attached to Spa / Killarney Handball Club.
Newcomers Niamh Faulds (24), Aoife Walsh (23) and Elena O’Donoghue, 18, are already marking their authority in the sport and are now encouraging more women to participate in handball.
Faulds, a graduate in nutrition and health sciences, has been involved in women’s football with her club Glenflesk since her childhood. Currently captain of the Glenflesk team, she is the holder of two County League medals, was a member of the Kerry Under-14 panel and received the GAA Player of the Year award with her school, Pobal Scoil Sliabh Luachra.
“Handball significantly improves the participants’ fine and gross motor skills. Concentration levels are skyrocketing and there is also the added dimension of social interaction between players from different clubs. For some women, handball offers an alternative to football or soccer and it is much appreciated, ”said Niamh, who was introduced to the sport while a student at Raheen National School by her teacher, Michael O. ‘Keeffe.
As an indoor sport, handball provides the sanctuary of a clean, warm and clutter-free environment away from rain and other problems associated with outdoor sport.
Elena O’Donoghue, graduation certificate student from Spa, is another football star who appreciates the benefits of handball in her athletic development. In addition to playing sports from a young age, she also won four All-Ireland medals with the Spa Set Dancers.
“If you think of squash, tennis and racquetball, you’re not really developing your weaker side. In handball, you need to develop your weaker side and play with both hands, which also improves your skills on GAA courts. This is the key to the success of the game and your personal success. There is nowhere to hide on the handball court, which guarantees a high level of fitness, dexterity, mobility and flexibility. Handball provides a full body workout while enjoying the thrill of the sport, ”said O’Donoghue.
A student at St. Bridget’s High School in Killarney, O’Donoghue was introduced to the sport by her father, Brendan, who played handball at a high level for many years. In 2029, he became the first man from Killarney / Spa to win the Munster and All-Ireland Handball medals in the Masters 55 B championships.
According to Aoife Walsh of Currow, a key player with the Currow GAA Club and St. Bridget’s Basketball Club, there is no better game for women than handball.
“From the point of view of coordination and thinking on their feet, it’s a great sport that anyone can play, at any level and at any age. Handball can be played by women of all ages and abilities. We saw this during our recent Club League in Spa. There is a wonderful social element to sport and sometimes it’s much more important than the competitive side of handball, ”said Walsh.
In an effort to promote the sport in Kerry, Walsh, a social worker, said it’s important for children to learn the rules and skills at a young age.
“Handball should be encouraged at the primary school level. A full time handball coach is needed to regularly visit schools if we are serious about the development and sustainability of handball as a sport of choice. In the Spa GAA complex, we have two indoor handball walls. They are simple wooden structures that could be replicated in GAA, schools and community halls all over Kerry. Handball is an age-old sport and it is up to us to preserve it for the future.
Modern handball originated in Ireland with the earliest records dating back to 1527 in Galway.
Niamh Faulds said: “Handball is fundamentally a very easy sport to learn. The rules are simple and all that is required for a person playing the sport is to hit the ball against the wall without it hitting the ground with your opponent returning the ball after maximum on a bounce. It’s that simple and it ensures that women who play sports can do it without the stress of learning a lot of rules and regulations. My advice is to visit your nearest club and go for a taste of the sport. It could be life changing.