About Handball

Handball is one of the simplest games in the world – all you need to start playing is a ball and a wall to hit it off! It’s a competitive game in which either hand or either fist may be used to serve and return the ball.

Handball is a game similar to Racquet-ball and Squash, except that the players hit the ball with a gloved hand instead of using a racquet. Both the left and right hands are used, depending on where the ball is hit. The objective in the game is score 21 points before your opponent does. Points are scored by the person serving the ball

The game can be played as singles or doubles, and a high level of hand-eye coordination is required along with balance, flexibility, speed and no small amount of skill. It is the perfect game. No other game reaches the same scope of fitness requirements, due to both hands being used. There are a number of different forms of handball in Ireland, which are described below

It is a very ancient game, with a rich history stretching back over hundreds and even thousands of years in different parts of the world. Today, in Ireland it is played by all age groups both Male and Female.

Handball in Ireland

Handball is played widely in Ireland. There are four codes of Handball in Ireland, they are: 40×20, 60×30, One Wall and Hardball


The 40×20 code refers to the dimensions of the court (40 ft by 20ft) and was introduced from America during the 1960’s and is now the International standard court. The ball is hard, and gloves are worn by the players. It is known as ‘Four Wall’ in the US, as all four walls and the roof can be hit during play.

In the 40×20 court a small solid blue rubber ball is used. Similar in size to a golf ball, this ball is extremely lively and can reach speeds up to and including 100 mph. It is compulsory to wear gloves and eyeguards in the 40×20 court for different reason, the gloves to keep the ball dry, providing little protection and eyeguards for safety reasons respectively.

The 40×20 game is the international code of the game and is played in over 14 countries worldwide.


Handball in the “big alley” is indigenous to Ireland, and is the more traditional code of the game. The 60×30 ball is red, and bigger than the 40×20 ball. It is also, only half solid, and will not skid badly if it gets wet, which means that the wearing of gloves is not compulsory.

This was traditionally an outdoor game, only moving indoors as the old alleys were roofed and new indoor alleys erected, during the latter half of the 20th century. As a result of this, the All Ireland Championships take place during the summer because in older times, bad weather made it almost impossible to play in the heart of winter.

The rules are similar to the small court. Due to the size of the court, speed of the ball and differences in the ball the game is unlike its small court cousin. The serve is more important, and volleying is key to success. With the ball being heavier, this leads to the natural underhand stroke as more power is needed to move the ball around the court. Doubles in the ‘Big Alley’ is probably as close to perfect handball as you can get with the game being played at a fast and furious pace, especially during the summer heat where pounds can often be shed in the course of one match!!


One Wall is the most basic of the handball codes. Played using only a front wall 20ft by 16ft and a floor area 20ft by 34ft, it is a much more physical game, with blocking of the opponent allowed. Again it is a popular outdoor game during the summer. The ball used in Ireland is similar to a racquetball.

It is undoubtedly a fantastic game for younger players as the larger ball and small court size make it ideal for beginners. It also encourages the developing of skills such as volleying, use of the weaker hand and a good kill shot – which is important in all courts!!.

It is particularily popular in certain areas, with Abbeylara, Co Longford being a famous One Wall club and Carrickmore, Co. Tyrone producing a string of National Champions.


Hardball is the most ancient of our games in Ireland. Using the large traditional 60×30 courts the ball used is made of Cork and Leather and travels at a much higher speed than any other handball. Padding is required on the hands due to the hardness of the ball – though correct hitting technique solves this problem.

Unfortunately not many people now play Hardball in Ireland due to the severity of the game. However interest has been revived in recent times with the staging of an International Rules match on an annual basis between the Basque Country and the top Hardball players from Ireland. A continuing interest in Hardball is essential to preservation of one of Ireland’s most ancient games.

Get Playing

Any Ball, Any Wall…Handball is such a simple but challenging game that all you need to play is a Ball and a suitable Wall. If you fancy trying playing handball at a local Handball Club in Roscommon then go to the Club’s Info page for contact details etc. Each of these clubs has a variety of courts – (40×20 or 60×30) which suit the needs of everyone. There are loads of old outdoor courts around the county which are ideal for playing handball. All many of them need is a quick cleaning and some paint and away you go!! The gable walls of houses and schools are also ideal for playing – as we say: ‘Any Ball, Any Wall…’New to Handball? Handball is such a simple game to play – yet it is great for getting and keeping fit for all ages. It does not require expensive equipment. It is a non contact injury free sport which can be played well into your ‘diamond years’. You can play it at your own level – Recreational to Competitive – its really up to you! There are also handballs to suit all ages with different balls used by juvenile players, ladies and beginners so there’s nothing to fear! Handball is one of the few sports which Excercise Studies in the U.S. have shown to rate highly in all the 5 areas of fitness – Speed, Power, Agility, Balance and Endurance. It has far outscored other sports such as Tennis, Squash and Soccer and is rated equal with Cross Country Skiing and Swimming for an all round work out. Indeed it scores so highly across all ranges of testing that it has been dubbed ‘The Perfect Game’ for getting and staying in shape due to its simplicity, use of both left and right sides on the body and lack of injury.

What do I need?

Join a Handball Club! Get playing!!

Useful Links:

GAA Handball.ie – Official Irish Handball Website

Irish Handball Homepage – John McLoughlin’s Handball Website

Handball County Committee

Chairman: Liam Ó Ceallaigh 

Ast. Chairman: Pat Carthy 

Secretary and Treasurer : John Kennedy

PRO: Brendan McDonagh 

Roscommon GAA County Board Delegates : Liam O Ceallaigh and John Donoghue 

Children’s Officer : Aengus Cunningham

Connacht Delegates: Pat Carthy and Michael Nolan

Juvenile Connaught Delegate: Ann Naughton

Handball Clubs in Roscommon

There are currently nine Handball Clubs registered in Roscommon

There are also a number of alleys around the county which are used for playing handball but are not officially registered with the County Board.Each of these clubs is a separate identity in its own right. Each club provides playing facilities for all its members along with coaching and help to their juvenile players. Clubs often run in-house leagues, tournaments and blitzes for their own members during the year.Each club has an elected committee of officers (many of them players) which is responsible for the proper running of the club and in working with the County Handball Board.

Each registered player in Roscommon may compete in the various County Handball Competitions and may go on to represent Roscommon at Connacht level and All-Ireland level.

To start playing or become involved all you have to do is become a member – its that simple!!

Handball Competitions

To put it mildly, there is a huge range of competitions that all players can enter all year long – both young and old.From Members’ Tournaments in the Club, County and Provincial Championships, Provincial Opens, Irish Nationals, One Wall Nationals, and even the US Nationals there is a level at which every player (no matter what your level) can competeFor Juveniles there are the Community Games, Feile na Gael, County Championships and Irish Nationals – with possibility of competing abroad also.Don’t let this daunt you however because all clubs have space for players who don’t take it quite so serious. You can play in your own time by booking the courts and organising games with people of your own level. Indeed many clubs have recreational players who are always looking for games!

One of the major differences between Handball and the other GAA Sports is that ‘Recreational Play’ amongst all its players forms one of the main outlets of handball activity during the year. Competition Information is sent to all Clubs by the County Secretary, Connacht Council and Irish Handball Council on a variety of events throughout the country.

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