St Patrick’s College Handball

Fr John Gilhooley – The Father of Handball

Handball has been established in St. Patricks College Cavan, since, the College has been in existence in 1871. But in more recent times, with the foresight of Fr. McKiernan, a Priest and teacher at St Patrick’s College, decided to build a state of the art new indoor handball facility. With the help of a fund raiser, by raffling of new cars and the money raised, was able to build two 40×20 handball courts and two squash alleys, the doors where open in 1979… 

Since then, a lot of handball has been played, with sore hands and bruised knees, but all with great spirits and joy! 

The handball courts received a make-over in 2019. There are four handball courts,  including new changing rooms. With thanks to our current Principal, Mr Chris Rowley. 

It would not be possible to mention St. Patrick’s College handball, without uttering the name Fr. John Gilhooley. 

Fr. John Gilhooley and Cavan handball have been mentioned in the same breadth for the most of three decades and was one of the driving forces of the game of handball in county Cavan. From his base in Saint Patrick’s College, Cavan, the Leitrim native of Drumkeerin was the engine which drove the native game way up the popularity charts in the educational establishment. For all of twenty years, Fr. Gilhooley was arguably the public face of the game in the Breffni County. Greatly committed to the sport, he was a key man in the nurturing and developing of the talents of a whole host of aspiring young handballer’s, who were students of St Patrick’s College Cavan. Since then, the popular priest is no longer ensconced at St. Pat’s, and in recent times has moved into a new Parish of Manorhamilton, back to his native county of Letrim.  

“Fr. John was always very competitive and there wasn’t a lonelier place, than sitting in the back of a 1994 dark grey Toyota Corolla on the way home, after losing a handball match! But thank God, we had more craic, sing-songs and stories told on our journeys home, which are always treasured memories to keep. Those car journeys where every much, as part of the ritual of playing on the court, as of it”. (J. Brady) 

In more recent times, Fr. John, had been based in Mullagh, Co. Cavan, not too far from Virgina, where he has coached alot of One-wall and 4-wall talented, young handballers. But what might be a loss to Mullagh, is only Manorhamilton gain. 

The successes of Cavan’s best handballers and fraternity of St Patrick’s College Cavan, i.e. Paul Brady, Michael Finnegan, Patrick Clerkin, Paul Fitzpatrick, James Brady, etc, the game at grass roots level around the county is stagnating at best. Indeed, while our finest continue to give as good as they get against the best in the world – and in the case of Paul Brady, doesn’t get much better…! 

Let’s hope the College, can keep on producing more great handballers for the future ahead…! 

Ad Meliora  

Pauric Martin, Fr J Gilhooley, Ronan Donagher

Front Row: Pauraic Kiernan (RIP), Paul Brady, Michael Finnnegan

Ulster College’s Handball

Pauraic Kiernan Memorial Cup

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