Handball Origins and WHC History
Handball Origins and WHC History
Wallball, is a rebranding for "handball" to gain international recognition. Its a sport in which players use their hands to hit a small, rubber ball against a wall such that their opponent(s) cannot do the same without the ball touching the ground twice nor hitting out-of-bound. The three version are four-wall, three-wall and one-wall.
Handball origins are referenced as far back as 1427 when King James I of Scotland ordered a cellar window in his palace courtyard to be blocked up, as it was interfering with his game.  In Ireland, the earliest written record is in 1527 in Galway...Once called "Fives" for the number of fingers needed to play, handball today traces it lineage to the Irish and Welsh folk sport since the 15th century .
Although the sport of handball was mastered in Ireland several centuries ago, and Irish players scattered across the globe in the nineteenth century, taking the game with them to other continents and countries, the possibility of international competition did not arise until 1956.
In that year, the President of the Irish Handball Council, the Very Rev. Canon Carroll, was visiting the U.S. and brought up the possibility with the AAU handball President, Charles J. O’Connell. Two players from America, Harry Hyde and Tom Ginty, both with Irish roots, were chosen to cross the pond for a 1957 exhibition. In fact, Hyde’s son, Bob, also made the trip. A total of eight matches were played in a ten day period in September, 1957, all in different locations in Ireland, and the results were an even split. Harry Hyde returned for further competition in 1958, but played only one winning match before the planned series did not materialize.
In 1960, the Irish council heard from players in Australia who proposed that Irish players come to Australia for a series of matches at Easter, 1962. They also proposed that Irish, Australian, and American players meet for competition in the U. S. in 1964. Neither occurred for various reasons.
Indeed, players from five countries—Australia, Canada, Ireland, Mexico and the U.S.-- met for the first “World” event in the World Fair year of 1964 in New York City at the NYAC. This was a clear turning point, as all involved needed to agree upon common rules to follow, and the Irish players encountered their first 40 x 20 “small” courts. Jimmy Jacobs won the singles round robin while John Sloan and Phil Elbert won the doubles. The U.S. was undefeated in 8 matches, with Canada taking a play-off with Mexico for second place.
The next advancement took place in 1967 when the U. S. rules were agreed to as the unified rules for international competition and Ireland was chosen for the 1970 World event. Canada were hosts in 1967 where Joey Maher (Ireland) but playing for Canada beat Carl Obert (USA) in the Invitational Singles Championship and the Obert Brothers, Carl and Rudy beat Harry Capperman and Mickey Unroth (Canada) in the Doubles. In the Open Singles World Championship, Stuffy Singer USA beat Steve August USA while in Open Doubles S. Garden and P. Haber USA beat Pantages and Kristopatis USA.
The Irish council members took their charge seriously, with significant fund-raising efforts in 1968 resulting in the construction of a glass showcase court in 1969 in Croke Park. The GAA was highly instrumental in helping with the funding for this court. Top players from the same five countries at the 1964 World event converged on Croke Park in October, 1970. Pat Kirby of the U.S. defeated all comers in singles, with Ireland’s Joe Maher earning second place. Ireland’s Richie Lyng and Seamus Buggy went undefeated in doubles to win that crown, with Bob Wilson and Mel Brown of Canada taking second place. This 1970 competition revealed that the showcase court’s design helped make the game much more readily viewed and appreciated by courtside spectators as well as a TV audience.
In spite of the progress made since 1956, the international handball scene went dormant after 1970 until 1984. That year, in honor of the centennial celebration of the Irish Handball Council, Dublin and Clare hosted a World Tournament featuring play on the 60 X 30 court as well as the 40 X 20, in both singles and doubles.
Canada hosted the 1986 event, in Kelowna, British Columbia. This was the first World event to which junior and women players were invited. Joseph Lynch convened the leaders of the various countries represented and reinvigorated efforts to create a functioning governance structure. Vern Roberts (USA) beat Ducksy Walsh (Ireland) in the Men's Invitational event.
Representatives from six countries made the trek to Melbourne, Australia, for the 1988 tournament. This event continued the opportunity for women players to be involved, so the ongoing growth and popularity curve of the World event remained vigorous. Joseph Lynch and Caimin Jones served the World Handball Council as President and Secretary. Danny Bell won the Invitational event, with Naty Alvarado of USA taking second. Kathleen Beddard of Canada won the Women’s title with Sue Carey of Ireland taking second. In Doubles Joe Nendler/Poncho Monreal of the USA defeated John Fleming/Pat Cleary of Ireland. In Women’s Doubles Lisa Fraser/Kathleen Beddard of Canada took the crown with Sue Carey/Bridget Mythen from Ireland taking second place.
In 1991, Joe Lynch notified the handball world that he would be resigning his position as National Secretary. Joe had been highly instrumental in endeavoring to get International Handball on a sound footing.
Lorcan O’Rourke assumed the position of General Secretary of Irish handball and was present at the 1991 World event which took place in Phoenix, Arizona. This tournament saw 558 entries, a new and impressive record for entrants. Players from Britain joined players from Japan, Australia, Ireland, Mexico, and the U.S. Poncho Monreal of Mexico defeated Canada’s Danny Bell for the Invitational title, while Anna Engele of the US won the Women’s Invitational crown in a tie breaker over Canada’s Diane Vallee. The Invitational Doubles saw Doug Glatt and Rod Prince of the US defeat Jeff Wilson/Roberto Meneses of Canada. In the Women's Invitational Doubles: Anna Engele and Beth Rowley of the US won a close match over Canada’s Lisa Fraser and Lavonah Muloin.
In June of 1991, Canada’s Bob Pruden took office as President of the World Council, and held this position until 1997, when Caimin Jones of Ireland assumed office.
The 1994 event added a new country—France—to the other national teams that met in Dublin for the eighth international showcase of handball. Once again, the venues were located in Dublin and Clare, with 41 classes of events for Open, age-group, skill groups, juniors and women. Nearly 1,000 players from around the world made the commitment to play in this impressive event. The Invitational results showed Dave Chapman (USA) winning against Ducksy Walsh (Ire.). In the Women's open: Lisa Fraser (Can.) prevailed over Anna Engele (USA). In the Men’s Invitational doubles: John Bike/Randy Morones (USA) handled Tom Sheridan/Egin Jensen (Ire). The Women's Invitational Doubles title went to Lisa Gilmore/Jessica Gawley (Can.) over Fiona Shannon/Sibeal McKenna (Ire.).
Winnipeg, Canada, hosted the World event in 1997. Americans dominated the four-wall event, with John Bike defeating a young but promising David Chapman in the Open Final (This was the first occasion that multiple entries were allowed in the main events) Likewise, Anna Engele (USA) took the women’s title with Canada’s Lisa Fraser claiming runner up. In Open doubles: John Bike and David Chapman (USA) prevailed over Danny Bell and Merv Deckert of Canada. For Women's Open Doubles Lisa Fraser and Jessica Gawley from Canada won over LeaAnn Martin and Allison Roberts of the USA. In One-Wall play, Americans prevailed, with Dave Rojas winning over Eddie Maisonet in singles. For the Women's Open: Sydell Smith of the U.S. took top honors with Barbara Canton taking second. In Open doubles, Tony Roberts/Dave Rojas of the U.S. defeated Maisonet/Paul Williams also from the U.S. In Women's Open doubles: Americans continued their winning ways with Smith/Karen McConney downing Canton/Dori Ten, also of the U.S. Some intriguing developments took place elsewhere as well, with pelota players from Spain giving one-wall handball a try in Ireland (originally tried in 1932), and Irish players getting involved with handball in Belgium and Finland. Handball was also beginning to take off in Wales and London, using the Belgian game played in a squash court.
Waterford Crystal continued its support for the game by sponsoring the 2000 Tournament held in Chicago, which boasted competition in more than 70 classes in four-wall and one-wall. The World Handball council was headed by President: Caimin Jones, Vice President: Paul Williams, and Secretary/Treasurer: Pat Brennan. In one-wall competition, Cesar Sala (U.S.) won over Joe Kaplan (U.S.). In the Women's open: Karen McConney (USA) defeated Dori Ten (USA). For the Men’s Open doubles: Tony Roberts and Dave Rojas (USA) won over Paul Williams and Eddie Maisonet (USA). In Women's Open Doubles, Dori Ten and Barbara Canton-Jackson (USA) prevailed over Karen McConney and Sydell Smith (USA). In 4-Wall Open: David Chapman (USA) handled John Bike (USA). In the Women's Open: Priscilla Shumate (USA) played a tough match to win over Anna Christoff (USA). In Open doubles: David Chapman and Danny Bell (US/CAN) combined to take the honors against John Bike and Kendell Lewis (USA). In Women's Open Doubles: Anna Christoff and LeaAnn Martin (USA) won against Lisa Gilmore and Jessica Gawley (Can.).
Ireland hosted the 2003 event, with some 1,200 players from 13 countries competing in 76 events, all new records for the increasingly popular event. Caimin Jones concluded his term as President and Paul Williams of the US was elected President. Canada’s Pat Brennan moved to VP and Con Moore, Ireland was elected secretary/treasurer. Ireland’s Paul Brady started a run of five consecutive World Four Wall titles with a win over Tony Healy, also from Eire. Fiona Shannon continued Ireland’s winning ways with her victory over Canada’s Lisa Fraser. In doubles, however, the Canadians returned the favor as Fraser partnered with Jessica Gawley to take down Shannon and Sibeal McKenna. Americans dominated the One Wall competition, as Herman Mendez nailed a win over Tony Roberts in singles, with Anna Calderon matching his win with her own against Lian Chin. In doubles. Mendez partnered with Willie Polanco to beat Roberts and Dave Rojas, while Calderon teamed with Melody Ruiz to capture a win over Chin and Na Liu.
The 2006 event landed in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The World Handball Council was lead by Paul Williams of New York as President, with Canada’s Pat Brennan as Vice President, and Con Moore of Ireland as Secretary-Treasurer. In One-Wall Open Singles: Cesar Sala prevailed over Joe Kaplan (USA), while Karen McConney (USA) outlasted Dori Ten (USA). In Open Doubles: Tony Roberts/Dave Rojas (USA) defeated Paul Williams/Eddie Maisonet (USA). For the Women's Open Doubles: Dori Ten/Barbara Canton-Jackson (USA) thwarted Karen McConney/Sydell Smith (USA). In Four-Wall Open Singles, Paul Brady (Ire.) overcame Tony Healy (Ire.) and Fiona Shannon (Ire.) secured a win over Anna Christoff (U.S.) in the Women’s Open Singles. In Open Doubles: Tony Healy/Eoin Kennedy (Ire.) won a marathon match against Paul Brady/Michael Finnegan (Ire.). In Women's open doubles, the host country found the winning combination when Lisa Gilmore/Jessica Gawley (Can.) were victorious over Fiona Shannon/Sibeal McKenna (Ire.).
Portland, Oregon, hosted the 2009 World Tournament, with the Multnomah Athletic Club and the Sunset Athletic club serving as the key venues. Once again, 1,000 players convened to celebrate the game they love. Pat Brennan assumed the position of WHC President, with Con Moore as VP and Vern Roberts serving as Secretary-Treasurer. Paul Brady continued to lead the way in Four Wall singles by winning a tough match against American Allan Garner. Irishmen Eoin Kennedy and Michael Finnegan secured a victory over their countrymen Robert McCarthy and Brian Carroll in doubles. Ireland’s Fiona Shannon won against Aisling Reilly. Shannon continued her dominance with a doubles win, teaming with Sibeal Gallagher over Maria Daly and Aisling Reilly in an all-Irish final. In One Wall play, John Rookie Wright of the US showed his mastery with a win over Giovanni Vasquez (team Puerto Rico). Americans also dominated the doubles, with Willie Polanco and Tony Roberts defeating Andre Calle and Victor LoPierre in the Open. The Team Event was won by USA (John Wright, Ray Lopez, William Polanco, and Yuber Castro) despite Giovanni Vazquez def. Polanco and Castro in singles, but USAs doubles team of Rookie and Ray Lopez were too seasoned. Team Puerto Rico who took second (Edgar Diaz, Giovanni Vazquez, Alex Pastor). The same held true in Women’s play, with Karen McConney beating Brenda Pares DuBose in the Women's Open, who then turned it around in doubles, with her partner Bernice Torres prevailing over McConney and Stephanie Vega. The Ladies Team Event was won by team USA (Karen McConney, Brenda Pares, Bernice Torres, Theressa McCourt) and Team Puerto Rico (Sophia Murphy-Barnes, Michelle Melendez, and Melody Ruiz) took the silver.
Several venues served to accommodate 2,000 players in October of 2012 in Dublin, with Ireland’s largest collection of four-wall and one-wall courts built for the occasion at Citywest. The changing of the guard in WHC governance went on apace as Con Moore, Ireland was elected president, with Mike Driscoll USA taking over as VP, and Mike Steele USA as secretary-treasurer. In the Four Wall handball action, Ireland’s Paul Brady continued his mastery over the years by defeating Luis Moreno of the US. Aisling Reilly won over her Irish competitor, Fiona Shannon. In Doubles, Moreno teamed up with Andy Nett of the US to pull out a win over Brady and Michel Finnegan. In One Wall men’s play, Tywan Cook prevailed over Yuber Castro, both of the USA. Americans Wally Amaro and Herman Mendez pulled off a victory over Willie Polanco and Cesar Sala, also of the US. In Women’s One Wall play Michelle Melendez took down fellow teammate Jessica Lopez from Puerto Rico. Karen McConney and Bernice Torres from the USA teamed up to win in Doubles against Jessica Lopez and Jessica Santiago also of team Puerto Rico by forfeit. The team events were won by Team Puerto Rico and China took second in the Women's Event.
Calgary hosted the 2015 World Handball Champions where 770 players took part. Con Moore Ireland was re-elected as President, Sophia Murphy-Barnes (team Puerto Rico) was elected Vice President and Mike Driscoll USA was elected Secretary Treasurer. Mike Steele did not seek re-election and we thank him for all his work in handball over the years.
Paul Brady, Ireland won an unprecedented 5th. World Open 4-Wall Singles Title, beating Killian Carroll, Ireland in the final. Ireland's Robert McCarthy and Diarmuid Nash won the World Open 4-Wall Doubles, beating fellow Irish pair Joseph McCann and Rikki O'Gara. Aisling Reilly, Ireland won her second World Open Singles Title, beating Catriona Casey, Ireland in the final while Aisling and Martina McMahon teamed up to beat Catriona Casey and Aisling O'Keeffe in the Women's Open Doubles Final.
In 1-Wall Small Ball, Sean Lenning USA beat Victor LePierre in Singles while Joseph Kaplan and Willie Polanco USA beat Andres Calle and Timothy Gonzales in the World Open Doubles Final.
In 1-Wall Big Ball Timothy Gonzales USA beat Tywan Cook USA in Singles and in the World Open Doubles Final Tywan Cook and Willie Polanco accounted for Andres Calle and Timothy Gonzales USA.
In the Women's 1-Wall Open Final Danielle Daskalakis USA beat Sandy Ng while in Doubles, Danielle and Sandy USA beat Karen McConnery and Lorraine Havern USA/Ireland.
Minneapolis was the host city in 2018 where 713 players competed. Dr. Raquel S. Murphy-Barnes (Puerto Rico)was the first Latina women elected President, Peter Dennihy (Ireland) Vice-President and Mike Driscoll as Secretary/Treasurer.
Killian Carroll (Ireland) was the 4-Wall Open Singles Winner beating Martin Mulkerrins (Ireland) 13-21, 21-13, 11-3 while Robbie McCarthy and Diarmuid Nash (Ireland) retained their doubles crown over Sean Lenning and Marcus Chevez (USA) 21-13, 17-21, 11-8.
Martina McMahon slammed in both codes where in 4-Wall Open she beat Catriona Casey (Ireland) 21-17, 21-12. In 1-Wall Martina beat Danielle Daskalis (USA)21-15, 18-21, 11-4 and in 4-Wall with Aisling Reilly retained their Open Doubles Title beating Catriona Casey and Aisling O'Keeffe (Ireland) 21-5, 21-15. So an unprecedented 3 Gold Medals for Martina.
In 1-Wall Open Singles Conor McElduff beat Vlad Klym (USA) and Vlad Klym and Ingmar McKenzie (USA) beat Conor McElduff and Paudie Quish (Ireland) 21-17, 20-21, 11-6.
In 1-Wall Small Ball, Willie Polanco (Dominican Republic) beat Jo Kaplan (USA) 21-18, 21-18 in Open Singles while in Open Doubles Willie Polanco and Jo Kaplan (USA) beat Kody Wan and Steven Woo (USA) 21-13, 21-13.
1. Crego, Robert (2003), Sports and games of the 18th and 19th centuries, Greenwod Publishing Group, ISBN 978-0-313-31610-4
2.Handball, The Story of Wales' First National Sport by Kevin Dicks 2017