Galway City Tribune - Opinion Piece
Multi-talented Connemara girl on top of handball worldNovember 1, 2012 - 9:21am
GET used to the name of Ciana Ní Churraoin – let it drift beyond the eardrum – for one suspects you will be hearing it a great deal in the years and, possibly, decades to come. For already a five-time World champion, the 16-year-old Inverin girl is quickly becoming to handball what Katie Taylor is to boxing.
Indeed, should handball be introduced into the next Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which is a real possibility, then it could be Ní Churraoin who could be vying for the headlines with Taylor . . . that is if both remain on top of their game. A lot can happen in four years.
In any event, Ní Churraoin is progressing nicely, having come back from the World Championships at CityWest recently with three gold medals – and a silver – to add to the two gold and the silver she had won as a 13-year-old at the Worlds in Portland, Oregon in 2009.
No wonder then, the Micheal Breathnach player comes across as a confident young woman – not cocky or arrogant – but comfortable in her burgeoning status on the national and world stage. She is a young lady who knows what she wants and, quite often, she will fight tooth and nail to achieve it.
Take those World Championship medals that she won in 2009. Too young to qualify for the Irish team to compete, a 13-year-old Ní Churraoin travelled with a small contingent from the locality to the games anyway, and took home titles in the U-13 40x20 and one-wall. In Ciana’s world, nothing is impossible.
By the end of the year, she was wearing an Irish jersey and since then she has continued to dominate the underage game to an extent that many people believe if she were to go senior – right here, right now – she would not be far away from claiming a national title. She’s that good.
Perhaps, you could argue that a statement such as this just puts pressure on a girl that just turned 16 years old in September but, at first meeting, Ní Churraoin appears to be one cool customer while in her mother and travelling companion Frances, she has a solid support system.
As they say in the West, though, Ní Churraoin comes from good stock. Her father Brian – a Galway Sports Star award winner in 1981 – was a renowned boxer and when the youngster, herself, collected her Award for handball last year, they became the first father-daughter recipients of the prestigious accolades.
Indeed, it came close to being a treble as her brother Fiontáin was also in the running for a Sports Star in 2011 after the towering midfielder helped Galway’s U-21 Gaelic footballers to All-Ireland success. He, too, is also a former All-Ireland handball winner.
“I just saw Fiontáin playing handball with some of his friends and I wanted to play it as well,” says Ní Churraoin, as she recounts her early days in the sport. “I played Cumann na mBunscol U-11s and I also competed in the County Championships at U-14 that year.
“I later won the Connacht U-14 title – defeating Lauren O’Riordan (Roscommon) – but then in the All-Ireland semi-final I was beaten well by Martina McMahon, who I beat in the recent World [U-17 40x20] final. She thrashed me that day.”
Despite the early set-back, Ní Churraoin was hooked and in the ensuing years her age began to catch up with the relevant grades. “I used to go training every day before [national] school and go every day after school. Since I started secondary school (Coláiste na Coiribe), it has been harder because I have to go into Town and I have to wake up early anyway.
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.