Manager of the Official Ireland Handball team

Niall Kerr didn’t mind his teatime being disturbed by a phone call. Certainly not, since the caller brought him great news which was a surprise to him. The caller told him that he had been appointed as manager of the official Ireland team heading to the World Handball Championships in Canada, during August.

 “The news was a total surprise to me,” said Beragh man Kerr, a prominent member of the Breacach Club. “Things were kept very quiet and I wasn’t really expecting to be in the running for the position, so to be told that I was appointed came as a real surprise – a pleasant one, of course.

“I knew that there was a meeting to select the manager but I didn’t imagine that I would be in the running. That makes my appointment more special. It is a great honour.

“I was going to Calgary anyhow, as I have entered the Silver Masters’ Championship but, luckily, I didn’t have the tickets booked. Now I’ll have my expenses paid, which is, naturally, a great bonus. The appointment is a superb honour.”

Also travelling as a Team Manager with the Irish players will be Paula Doyle from Leixlip. A qualified childcare worker, she has quite a long experience of coaching and has been a ‘house mother’ on trips with the Metropolitan Girls’ Soccer League Academy. Niall and Paula will share duties.

The Beragh man has a long history of coaching in Tyrone and elsewhere. He is a qualified Tutor and a coach with numerous years’ experience, both in Ireland and abroad.

Kerr has managed the coaching and development programmes at club, schools and county level in Tyrone while he has managed and coached players for five years in the USHA Junior Nationals, as well as, at World Championships in 2003. 06, 09 and 2012 with a high level of success.

“I’m not too sure, yet, what my role in Canada will entail but, I imagine, a lot of it will be to look after the juveniles. There will be as total of 16 players in the Irish team so there will be plenty of things to look after, I’m sure,” says the former Irish One-Wall champion.

Kerr will have quite a number of his home club players in the squad. Johnny Woods, the UGAAWA Young Achiever last year, and Pól Clarke will be involved in Boys’ 19 &U singles and doubles and very close to getting a ticket on the plane, too, was Niall’s son Sean. In the trials he lost out in an 11-8 tiebreaker.

However, Sean will be going to Calgary and will play in the 17&U competitions. No doubt, dad will be doing a bit of coaching there, too, and he could end up with a situation where Sean clashes with an Irish team member – not out of the realms of possibility that could be in a final.

By Tony McGee