Round 4 of the Irish Olympic Handball senior men’s league took place last weekend, with all teams in action, except UCD, who take an early Christmas break with exams on the way.
Sligo IT, a new team to the league this year after competing in division 2 last season.
They are a but if an unknown quantity but their experienced coach Robert Hamm at the helm would be expected to steer them in the right direction.
Lughnasa came to town as favourites and knew that top place in the league was achievable if they could rack up a healthy goal difference against the students.
And rack up a score was exactly what they did.
The game started at a frantic pace, Lughnasa dominated the opening exchanges with eight goals to Sligo’s one.
Sligo rallied after a time out and responded and kept the scores within reach for a time.
However, Lughnasa were the stronger team and continued their onslaught towards the end of the half, leading 24:7 at the break.
After the first half, the victory was out of reach for Sligo, but they continued to fight in every attack and defence.
During the second half Lughnasa’s lead was extended, with the more experienced squad not letting up, managing another 21 goals in the second period.
The match ended Lughnasa 45:17 Sligo IT. This put the Dublin based team on top of the league at this early stage, a position not seen by Lughnasa for about five years.
DCU took on Astra for the second time this season, and another close encounter was expected between two teams who are expected to be scrapping over a semi-final spot at the send of the season.
The game started slowly with both teams trading blows, and going goal for goal, with the scores level for the opening quarter.
Astra slowly developed a lead towards the end of the first half. Astra’s defence was the difference here as DCU found it difficult to create scoring opportunities, and was reflected in the scores as Astra stole into a 14:9 half time lead.
DCU upped the tempo in the second half but Astra’s lead was not threatened, some fine saves from young keeper, Matheus Pelk, helped Astra keep on top of the game.
Despite their efforts, DCU did not mount a serious comeback. Astra extended their lead marginally through the half and strolled to a comfortable win. The final score read Astra 29:21 DCU.
This is the third loss for DCU from four, if things continue in this vein, the college may not make the playoffs, long removed from their appearance in last season’s final.
The wheels quite literally came off the Dublin International bus on Sunday as they travelled to Cork to face UCC.
DI were delayed by an hour on their arrival to Cork due to an incident with their bus. Luckily the team arrived in enough time and the game went ahead.
DI have remained unbeaten for a number of years. In fact, the last team to take a point off of the champions was a young, now non-existent, North Kildare team, in a draw in 2008.
But last year it was UCC who came closest to upsetting that streak when they were edged out by the league champions in the cup final.
UCC went into the game believing that they could win. It was a frantic game but DI were the early leaders.
They built up a strong lead and were up by six goals in the first half, however UCC finished strongly and at half time they lay just four goal behind DI, it was not a good start for the students, but certainly not game over at 8:12.
In the second half, UCC were blown out of the water. DI closed up shop in defence, used their power and strength in attack and countered quickly clocking up easy goals.
DI swiftly stamped out the possibility of a UCC upset. Once again however, UCC showed that DI are not infallible as they routed DI in the final minutes to pull the deficit back to eight.
The game ended 20:28 in a rather low scoring contest, with many chances wasted by both teams.
With that victory, DI move into third, one win behind the leaders Lughnasa and second place Astra, with a game in hand.
Meanwhile, UCC will be disappointed with their form so far, expecting a lot more, though the opening three games have proven how tough the league can be.
The Cork team will not be too downhearted however, knowing that these are early days and the fight for a top four spot is very much alive.
The match between Astra and DI on 9th December should start to sort the men from the boys in the league.
On the same date in cork, UCC host Sligo IT in a game that will be hotly contested, both teams will be looking for wins to bring them off the lower end of the table.