Martin Raftery was Drumshanbos pride and joy last weekend when he captured the All Ireland Junior 60×30 championship at the expence of Paul Lambert of Wexford. In a thrilling and energy sapping three game marathon at the Na Fianna GAA handball complex inÓglasnevin Dublin, Raftery won the game 16-21 21-17 21-19.
In a game that could have gone either way, Raftery had to dig deep after a very good start by Lambert. A sharper looking Lambert was killing the ball at every chance while Raftery relied more on defencive and passing shots. Both sides found aces hard to come by and long rallys took its toll on energy levels, so it was always going to be the survival of the fittest. In that regard it was Raftery who looked the strongest and more composed as the game went on.
After losing the first set Raftery adjusted his game and serves to Lamberts weaker left overhand side had telling effect and with veteran Ed Lee emparting his knowledge and experience as coach the Leitrim man was now looking at a more vunerable Lambert. In a hard fought second game lasting thirty eight minutes Raftery tied the game with a 21-17 victory.
Everything was now to be played for by both men, but the momenteum was now with Raftery. Some fine tuning with coach Ed Lee and Raftery was in a confident mood with the smell of victory in his nostrils. A blistering start from the Leitrim man in the third game had the Leitrim supporters on their feet and at 12-4 up it looked good but a revival by Lambert brought him to 13 all and it was now backs to the wall. Raftery made another break 20-14 only to be reeled in again and repeatedly served game ball before crossing the line at 21-19, a triumptant and delighted Raftery waved his Leitrim shirt to the crowd releasing the tension of a gruelling and tough two hour twelve minute game.
Afterwards Raftery was presented with his All Ireland Gold medal to the delight of his supporters by referee Frank Daly. It was a case of the west awake as the two Sligo players, Martin Cooney and Shane Bruen also went on to win their games in what was a great day for both sets of supporters.
24-Sep-14 by Handball – PRO