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30 BLANCH gazette 19 November 2015



olympic sport: dublin international club on the march

New Celtic U-12 sponsor ARTHUR Armstrong of Arthur Armstrong Ceilings was on hand to present a newly sponsored football kit to Castleknock Celtic’s DDSL Under-12 team captain, James Daly. Also in the picture are Cillian Maxwell, Adam Fleming, and team manager Alan Fleming.

Mochta’s U-12s off Major 1 mark with a Pop ST MOCHTA’S Under-12 Major 1 side took their first points of the season when they shaded a narrow 2-1 win over Leixlip United in one of the few games to survive the weather last weekend. After a slow start by the Saints, Leixlip took the lead inside the first five minutes after a mix up from a Leixlip corner. That seemed to wake the team up and within five minutes they were level. Alex Conway played in a delightful ball from the right which Dylan

Doyle struck first time. The keeper made a parrying save and in stepped Alex Pop at the back post for a simple finish. Shane Manning and Luke Walsh stepped up from the second team to help with the numbers and were superb. The winning goal came with 10 minutes to go in the game. Following a corner from Conway, he then managed to find himself in the box. Leixlip were unable to clear the ball and Pop was there to strike the ball home past the keeper. It was a well deserved three points for the saints and an overall fantastic team performance.

The Dublin International handball team during a recent trip to Edinburgh

D15’s handball heroes

 james hendicott

TOMAS MARTINONIS plays handball, and he’s not talking about the GAA version. Olympic handball is a minority sport in Ireland, and when he arrived here from Lithuania in 2007, he was surprised to find a two-tier league of 14 sides already running. The side he joined, Blanchardstown-based Dublin International Handball Club, are the dominant force in the Irish men’s game, but their consistent league competitors number just six. That’s not to say Ire-

land are weak in the sport: those six sides can field teams competent enough that when they travelled to represent their country in 2009, they ran fully professional clubs from Croatia and the Ukraine close, and beat an English side with a far larger catchment area. Without funding, they haven’t been able to justify travel in recent years. The sport is played on a 40m by 20m indoor pitch, with goals scored in 3m goals at either end of the pitch, by throwing into the net from a distance of greater than 6m. It’s fast-paced and lively, and immensely popular

(and professional) across central Europe, especially in Germany, Russia, Scandinavia and the Baltic states. Martinonis describes the Irish league as “mostly international”, admitting that even a few of the Irish national side are naturalised citizens, but is keen to highlight both the benefits of the game to other sportsmen, and how open his Phibblestown-based side are to new players. “It’s a game that suits different kinds of athletes with different physical abilities, depending on what position they might play in,” Martinonis said. “There are a lot of simi-

larities to Gaelic football, so people who grew up playing that would have a good start.” Martinonis extends an open invite down to the club. “Our women’s team has really taken off recently, and we’re starting a kids’ team for the first time this season,” he says. “We take any ability; our club has players who are former professionals, but also people who had never played the game before they arrived.” A particular target audience is those Gaelic football players, with Olympic handball a winter sport that fits in nicely around the GAA season, running

from November to April. “We’d like to see the game develop, in our club, obviously, but also outside Dublin,” Martinonis says. “We only have one non-Dublin team in the league, though teams from Belfast, Galway and Sligo compete in the cup. “The teams change a lot, partly because a lot of players are expats and tend to return home. “We’re strong in part because we’ve played with the same core of players for the last six years. “But we’d really like to see our strength develop, and we’d like more locals involved. It’s a great sport.”