In our new series, ‘Showcase your Sport’, in association with the Federation of Irish Sport, we will be giving you a thorough insight into some of the most fascinating sports we have in Ireland.
This week, our focus is on GAA Handball and to explaining the rules and the progression of the sport in Ireland is the National Development Officer Darragh Daly.
When did you first get involved with GAA Handball?
Handball has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. I started playing with my local club when I was 10 years old. My father managed the local Youth Centre next door to the Handball Alley so we had plenty of access.
I also have been working full time for GAA Handball for nearly nine years now. The job arose just at the perfect time for me, during the summer which I had just graduated from University.
What are the different codes in handball?
There are three main codes of Handball played in Ireland.
4-Wall is the most popular code currently in Ireland and is played in an indoor enclosed court (slightly larger than a Squash court).
1-Wall is the most basic form of the sport in the sense that it requires only one wall, and it can be played indoors or outdoors.
60×30 is the traditional code, played only in Ireland in large concrete courts. Initially played outdoors (you would see these old courts spotted all over the country), before eventually moving indoor over time due to the Irish weather.
What are the basic rules?
The main aim of Handball is to hit the ball against the front wall with either hand. Your opponent must strike the ball back again before it bounces twice otherwise the rally ends.
The rubber ball is similar in size to a Squash ball, but a lot harder. Typical adult matches are played best of 3×21, with juvenile matches best of 2×15 and a tiebreaker to 11. You must serve and win the rally to earn a point.
How many clubs are there in Ireland?
We have 180 registered GAA Handball Clubs across Ireland, which is a lot more than most people realise. They are all listed in our handy Club Locator Map for anyone who is interested (www.gaahandball.ie/clubzone).
On top of that we have approximately 500 1-Wall Courts built in schools and GAA Clubs nationwide, opening access to our sport to thousansds more on a recreational basis.
Do Irish people compete internationally?
They do and they are pretty good too! The 4-Wall and 1-Wall codes of Handball are played internationally with a World Championships held every three years.
Irish Handball is in a very healthy position at present. In the last World Championships in Minnesota in 2018, we took home a clean sweep of the Elite Men’s and Ladies titles in both codes for the first time.
On top of that, there are European and US Tours held annually in major cities that Irish players travel to compete in.
What is your favourite aspect of your role?
I just like getting to promote and grow the sport I am very passionate about, be that to new players or existing members. I fully believe the sport has great potential to grow and become more mainstream, even as a recreational sport for the masses.
My role is quite diverse so that keeps the work agenda fresh. I can be organising large national and international events, delivering and developing coach education, growing the game with our Schools programme, or working with Clubs at a local level.
Why should people try handball?
Well first and foremost because it is a fun and challenging game that will keep you wanting to come back for more.
In Handball you play Singles or Doubles, so there are no hiding places in a court and you see lots of the ball every time you play.
The additional benefit is that it will keep you very fit and healthy.
How can they get involved?
Check out www.gaahandball.ie for everything you need to know from rules, events, Clubs, equipment, etc. We have a small full-time staff team so feel free to get in contact and we will be happy to help put you in contact with good people to get you started playing.
I would just encourage people to give it a go no matter what your age or ability level is. One of the best things about Handball is that it is a game for life in the sense that we have grades from juvenile through to 70+. It is never too late to start.