By Martin Lalor
Kilkenny’s Patrick Funchion may be one of the lesser known names remaining in the 2017 O’Neills 40×20 Singles Championship draw, but the quiet Kells clubman is starting to establish a name for himself as a quality player.
Already in this year’s championship, Funchion overcame Vinnie Moran (Mayo) 21-7, 21-14. That win saw him advance to play Meath’s Brian Carroll last Saturday in the Round of 16, a game where he was the underdog, but came through in a marathon 2.5 hour battle. The win has seen Patrick advance to the QF for the second successive year, having narrowly lost out 21-20 to CJ Fitzpatrick in last years QF third game.
After Patrick winning the first game 21-16 last Saturday, Carroll came back in typical gritty fashion and took the second game 21-16 to force a decider. It was all to play for in the third game but Funchion knuckled down and took home the win with an impressive score line of 21-09. Of the game Patrick said;
“I was disappointed that I didn’t take the second game, but I definitely played much better than I did in the first round. I am delighted to have a match like that under my belt moving forward in the Championship, the game lasted over two hours and I haven’t had a game that tough in over a year. It is always a huge confidence boost when you overcome a player of Brian’s calibre.”
He also went on to note how gracious Brian was in defeat stating:
“Brian has a wonderful sense of sportsmanship and he was extremely humble in defeat. He congratulated me whole heartedly and wished me the best of luck in all of my championship games.”
Preparing for the Handball championship can be a daunting task, but one common struggle of athletes is the recovery period after a particularly gruelling game, especially when your next championship game is so close;
“I definitely needed to take the next day off, I went for a swim and just relaxed. But with the next game so close at hand there is no time to rest on your laurels so I am back in the alley”.
Patrick will now face Cork’s Brendan Fleming in Saturday’s QF after Fleming took out Antrim’s Owen McKenna in the Round of 16.
“I have never played Brendan before, so I am looking forward to the challenge. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see his game last weekend as my own game ran on so long, but I am sure it will be an interesting match to say the least.”
At 26, Patrick is closing in on his best Championship showing by reaching his maiden SF, so we wanted to find out does he attribute his success to age, experience or a better training regime.
“Since my brother, Peter, moved back to Ireland it has made a huge difference to my training, I couldn’t ask for a better training partner. I have also found that travelling to two pro-stops last year has really improved my game. The game is so different over there and experiencing that has allowed me to incorporate new strategies and plays.”
Overall, every handball player has a specific goal in mind at the start of each season, when asked about his aims for the year Patrick was very clear;
“I want to win, just like everyone else does – but all I can do is take it one game at a time, and focus on what’s right in front of me. In the long run, I am looking forward to starting the 40×20 doubles championship, but also, this year I want to get back in the big alley and give that a rattle too.”
“I am so glad to be on the road to Kingscourt, it’s been a long journey getting here, but hopefully I make it a few more steps closer to the destination.”
Given the high quality of players left in the 2017 O’Neill’s 40×20 Singles Championship, it will certainly be an interesting journey for the finalists and an exciting time for all Handball spectators.
Men’s Senior QF Fixtures – Saturday 25th February
Conna, Cork @ 12 noon OIC Chris Hurley
QF2: Kilkenny (Patrick Funchion) v Cork (Brendan Fleming)
Kingscourt Ct 1, Cavan @ 4pm OIC Michael Finnegan
QF3: Galway (Martin Mulkerrins) v Clare (Diarmuid Nash)
QF4: Wicklow (Michael Gregan) v Westmeath (Robbie McCarthy