Handball-like games have originated in several places at different times over the centuries. There are references to the game in early Egyptian times as well as references to it in pre-Columbian Southern and Central America. 
In Europe it was traditionally found in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and was and still is extremely popular in The Basque Country and Northern Spain. To this day, you can witness young and old playing handball in nearly every village in the Basque Country. One striking thing I witnessed when I visited the Basque Country was the common use of church and town walls to play against. This too was the case in Ireland, as only recently did I discover an old photo of Ferns Castle which had part of its wall plastered and was used for playing handball. 
This approached is repeated here in Blackwater as the gable end of the ruined church in Ballyvaldon too was re-plastered and used for this purpose. Some further reading revealed that in 1427, that King James I ordered a cellar window in his palace courtyard to be blocked up, as it was interfering with his game, while there is an account in the Statutes of Galway in 1527 which forbade the playing of ball games against the walls of the town. 
During the early years of the foundation of the State, many handball alleys were built and used by their communities, both urban and rural. With the decline in the popularity of the game, many became disused and have been removed. In urban areas, many became centres for anti-social behavior. One such handball alley was the feature of a folklore collection I worked on in 2004, in St. Mary’s Park, Limerick City; in a bid to keep the young people away from the Handball Alley, parents told them that the banshee lived there.
In country areas, as evident in Blackwater, these alleys are places where people meet and play. There are many iconic alleys still existing in Wexford, and the two listed here are high on that list. One striking feature of the alley in Ballyconnigar Lower is the painted tricolour which stands proudly on the ball wall. Every couple of years, the flag gets repainted and I’m please to say it looked great on the day we visited. 
Looking on the old OSI maps, there is no reference to the handball alley in Ballyconnigar Lower. Does anyone have any information when it was built and by whom? Many of the early Free State alleys were shutter concrete affairs, while this wall has pointed stone at the back. Could it have been developed on the ruins of an old building that once stood in this spot? Further up from the handball alley was a field used for hurling matches. Johnny Cullen told me that the field was known as ‘The Boiler House Field’ as a boiler for making animal meal once stood there.

Handball Alleys

Ballyvaldon and Ballyconnigar Upper, Co. Wexford