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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

National Schools Finals a big success

Around 400 of England’s most talented youngsters competed at this year’s EHA National School Finals at SportHouse in Barking on Saturday.

Following preliminary rounds staged across the country earlier in the season, the best 26 male and female teams in Under-13 and Under-15 age groups did battle at the venue, which is the Olympic Games training venue and will be used by the best players in the world in just a month’s time.

The matches were played in a superb atmosphere, created by an enthusiastic mix of volunteers, organisers, spectators and passionate athletes.

The youngest female competitors were the first to play their final on the well attended show court. Lymm High School won the tight final, which left the second and third place to Harris Girls Academy and Ark Academy. 

The game was followed by the U13 boys final between Harris Boys and Erith School. The support of Harris Girls team might have helped Harris Boys to defeat Erith School who earned silver and Wirral Grammar High School who achieved Bronze in the U13 Boys age group.

In the U15 girls winners Parrs Wood High School took on Harris Girls in the Final and left 3rd place to Barking Abbey Girls.

Exciting and close group matches were played in U15 Boys category. However, the final matches were clearly dominated by the boys from All Saints School – the 2012 National Champions. A remarkable second and third place was achieved by The Bromfords School and Harris Boy’s Academy.

During the event EHA raised £340 for British Handball’s digression fund, which is used to help talented athletes with travel and living expenses.

After the competition, Dermot O’Brien from All Saints Catholic School said: “When we first started playing competitive handball last September we never believed the boys could of achieved so much in such a short space of time.

“It is a credit to their hard work and dedication whilst dealing with many obstacles along the way. On the day, the boys came showed incredible determination, teamwork and self-belief to emerge victorious. The final took many twists and turns as we received a red card, two yellows and three one minute suspensions.

“However, great defensive play and an outstanding performance from our goalkeeper to make three incredible match winning saves including a penalty. The boys kept going and saw out a very hard tense second half against a very talented Bromfords side.

“Finally, I would like to thank England Handball and coaches from the Newham Flames for their help and advice throughout the year. The boys are looking to take handball to the next level now and promote the sport in the younger year groups to build on their success achieved.”

And Josh Connolly from Harris Boys’ Academy added: “Personally I was really impressed at the organisation of the National Competition this year, in particular the Final. It was a fantastic day that ran without a hitch which is credit to the organisers, staff involved and the high quality officials.

“Harris Boys Academy East Dulwich is very proud of both teams that competed. The U13 team were deserving National Champions on the day and they have improved massively this season. The U15 team finished third overall which was probably fair as they lost convincingly in the semi’s to All Saints who were in fine form and went on to win, congratulations to them for this.

“The teams will now take time to reflect on their fantastic achievements and look to continue their development in new school year.”

“I must say a special thank you to London 2012 Handball Competition Manager Alex Gavrilovic, and GB players Steven Larsson and John Pearce for presenting medals and trophies to winning the teams,” said organiser Ari Bekker. “They are a real inspiration to these young players and show that there is a legacy in handball is here to stay.

“A massive thank you also to all volunteers (table officials, referees) who made this event happen. Their help and support much appreciated, throughout the day and in recent weeks leading up to the event! Many thanks and congratulations to all participants, representatives, team managers and volunteers.”

And Mick Hegarty, the EHA’s Director of Performance, added: “The third National Schools Finals was a fantastic event and testament to the decision of the EHA to focus strategy on schools development over the last three years.

“The standard of play and quality of the athletes participating indicates how seriously the PE profession are taking our sport. The venue at Mayesbrook was a perfect setting and the standard of organisation by Ari Bekker's team of volunteers on the day and Miriam Pederson's hard work all year on the National Schools Committee set a really high standard for all to enjoy.

“I am very excited at the prospect of the England National Schools teams and eventually World Class Players which will be borne out of this competition.”

 * All photos: Krzysztol Wojciechowski


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