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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: December 28, 2009 @ 12:39 pm

    Hammering away at Saval

    Pól Ó Muirí

    Saval GAC, Co Down, must have one of the most picturesque grounds in Ireland. Situated just north of Newry, the football pitch looks south onto the majestic Mournes. I genuinely don’t know how anyone manages to kick a ball and not be distracted by the marvellous view. It must be some thrill to run out on a warm summer night and play a game for the parish. As it happens, the club footballers were out yesterday in the not so warm winter sun, playing a challenge match between the under 35s and the over 35s. I could only marvel at their bravery as I and my fellow handballers made our way to the handball courts for the annual challenge between Armagh’s fistful of handballers (including this blogger) and the Saval players.

    Yes, not only do Saval have a great pitch but they also have two very fine handball courts, nice hot showers, plates of sandwiches and a very cosy bar in which to discuss the shot that got away. The Saval get-together is a very informal affair but one which we all look forward to; not simply because of the handball but also because Saval are such wonderful hosts. Happily, honours were shared this year: Armagh’s Conor McMahon won the plate competition while Saval’s own Niall Digney won the main competition. (I’ll not mention who Niall beat in the final as I am still crying into my beer.)

    But what a wonderful day and what a wonderful game. 14 players from their teens to the over 50s, going toe to toe in some very friendly rivalry. Admittedly, the handicap system might have favoured some of the older players – like myself – but when you hit your 40s you need every point you can get. It was a nice way to round up the year and, even better, get us all in shape for the Ulster championship which is not too far away. Many thanks to Saval for organising the day.

    If you have not made a New Year’s resolution, let me suggest getting yourself down to a handball court and rediscovering the greatest of the GAA’s games.

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