By Paul Fitzpatrick
THE field in the O’Neill’s All-Ireland 40×20 Senior Singles has been whittled down to eight with a couple of surprise packages in the mix, not least Tyrone’s Conor McElduff.
The top wallball player in the country – and, indeed, on the European Tour – McElduff has generally focused on that code (formerly called One Wall) in recent years. However, he did play the 60×30 version of the game last summer, winning the Junior Singles All-Ireland, and he has now returned to the 40×20 game too, with excellent results so far.
The wallball ace had his first championship foray at senior level in the 40×20 code last weekend and pulled off an eye-catching 21-16, 7-21, 11-5 win over the in-form Daniel Relihan of Cork, who had reached the final of the inaugural Southern Classic recently, taking the scalp of defending All-Ireland champion Diarmaid Nash in the process.
“Happy enough with the game, it’s the first time I’ve played championship since I won the Intermediate in 2016. This is actually my first time to play Senior Championship in the 40×20 so I’m happy to get the win, especially since Daniel was coming off reaching the final at the last tournament, he beat Nash in that so he was in form,” stated McElduff this week.
The Breacach clubman has had a difficult time with injuries in recent years and is not fully in the clear at present.
“I have got a bit of a nerve issue with my left quad, I always seem to have some little niggle,” he explained.
However, he has had the chance to train hard and focus on the 40×20 for the past couple of months. After winning the European Elite Wallball Stop at Croke Park in December, he has turned his attentions to four-wall, culminating in the victory over the in-form Relihan, whose run to the Southern Classic final really announced his arrival on the big stage.
McElduff feels he is beginning to peak.
“I don’t think I have hit my best form yet, I am still getting acclimatised to the four-wall code. There are a lot of things I can improve on but I’m relishing the challenge. I just want to come over and try and give these boys a run for their money. I think I can be among the top in the four-wall code as well so I’ll be flat out training now before the quarters.
“Yeah, I’m happy enough with the win but the performance can be greatly improved. I’m doing too much paddling, too much just chipping it up with the left hand, you shouldn’t be hitting that shot in four-wall, you should be wrapping it around or fisting it to the roof at worst. But hopefully I’ll iron out those creases soon and hopefully give this championship a good run.”
Next up for the Tyrone right-hander is a tussle with Kerry veteran Dominic Lynch. The Kingdom lefty saw off Cork’s Tadhg Carroll in a tie breaker in his round of 16 clash last weekend.