The old handball alley in Ballyheane, pictured by Dick Heraty.

Old handball alleys subject of new archive

MAYO'S old and abandoned handball alleys are the feature of a new photographic record.

The alleys – 61 in total to date – have been pictured by Richard (Dick) Heraty, creating a unique sports heritage archive.

'Fascinated' by the old alleys and the stories behind them, starting last November, Dick took to the roads on a mission to photograph every ball alley in the county.

His interest is no big surprise. He grew up playing handball locally in Castlebar and his uncle, Fr. Richie Horan, was chairman of the Connacht Council back in the late '50s.

The alleys, he noted, were cheap to build and free to run, and everyone played the game. Unfortunately, most had no proper affiliation to anywhere and as times moved on, most were abandoned and left serving no purpose in the communities where they once thrived.

To date, he has recorded 61 alleys in Mayo, many of them in the east of the county, where handball has a strong tradition, along with four in Sligo, two near Ballaghaderreen, which comes under the Mayo GAA area, and another on the Roscommon border at Granlahan.

On his travels he found one alley in use – with a player practising his hurling skills off the wall, which had a goal painted on it.

Ultimately, the aim is to make the photos available online, with some information about each, or possibly in print form.

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