Afghani-born twins (11) enjoy national handball success

Handball news

History was made last weekend at the National Handball Centre in Croke Park when two Afghani-born handballers from Cavan defeated the best players in the country at the All-Ireland Cumann na mBunscol finals.

Twins Ehsanullah and Subhanullah Ahmanzai (11), representing St Felim’s NS in Cavan Town in the U13 grade, stormed to success in the Ulster finals to qualify for the national finals day in Croke Park.

While the competition is technically non-competitive, the Cavan pair played superbly as they won all of their matches against the champions of Connacht, Leinster and Munster in the brand-new national centre.

The boys were born in Afghanistan and moved to Ireland at the age of three. They are from a large family of nine siblings and took up handball in senior infants against a wall at St Clare’s NS before progressing their games when they enrolled in St Felim’s, where their coach is none other than five-time world champion Paul Brady.

“We are very proud of the boys, they have worked very hard and after losing in the Ulsters in 2022 and 2023, they were doubly determined this year,” stated St Felim’s principal Anne Donnellan.

The twins, who are also talented footballers with Cavan Gaels, practise during school and also after school at St Patrick’s College, where they train regularly with older boys including Andzejs Urtans and Mikey Ferncombe, who won the Ulster U13 grade last year and made it through to the All-Irelands.

There is a handball revolution in St Felim’s at the moment, explained Anne.

“Handball is extremely popular in the school, I would say handballs have become a sort of currency in the school.

“We have a very multicultural population and handball is open to everyone. You don’t need to know the rules of soccer or Gaelic football, or the etiquette, you just need to be able to hit a ball against a wall with your hand and you can fit in very quickly.

“It’s like the language of the school is handball. It’s become such a big thing.

“It’s a great activity for the pupils and there is a pathway there for them to go on and be successful in the sport.”

There are plans afoot to build two brand new handball courts at the school.

Ehsanullah and Subhanullah said that winning the Ulster title and beating the best in the country at Croke Park was the highlight of their short handball careers to date. The fifth class students, who are still underage for this grade next year, hope to continue to compete and move on to higher grades in the coming years.