Updated: Saturday, 20th April 2019 @ 3:28pm

Salford handball player Ciaran Williams amazed by public response as Team GB debut at London 2012

Salford handball player Ciaran Williams amazed by public response as Team GB debut at London 2012

By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent

Salford handball player Ciaran Williams believes the country has fallen in love with the sport following Team GB's debut at London 2012.

Despite being widely played on the continent and in Scandinavia, handball was virtually unheard of on these shores before these Olympic Games.

Handball was mooted as one of the most obvious beneficiaries of the massive exposure a home Olympic Games offers minority sports here in Great Britain.

Ciaran said: "The reception for handball at London 2012 was immense.

I think everyone loved watching handball and we've become a lot of people's second sport now."

Williams - who still plays for Salford Handball Club - believes interest in the game will now rocket.

"The grass roots game will see a big surge in numbers. Participation will increase massively which can only be a good thing," he said.

Despite Team GB - both men and women - failing to win a game between them, the public's imagination was definitely caught by the action inside the Copper Box.

Ciaran's team were grouped with reigning champions France - who went on to retain their title  and Beijing silver medalists Iceland, as well as continental powers Tunisia, Argentina and Sweden, who finished as runners up.

All this meant a passage into the knockout stages was unlikely at best, given that six years ago British Handball was still in its' infancy, a result of the country winning the right to host the Games - and the host nation spot that is granted in every sport.

He said: "The atmosphere in the Copper Box was amazing. Competing at the Olympic Games was the best two weeks of my life.

We stayed in the Olympic Village after we got knocked out and it's brilliant to mix with other athletes like that.

The whole place is like a bubble - another world almost.

To meet royalty and see them watching handball is mind blowing. I met Ryan Giggs too which is pretty decent for a United fan.

I kept thinking, I'm just a 24-year-old lad from Salford!"

Despite the euphoria of competing at London 2012, some sports have been warned by UK Sport they face funding cuts if they did not meet their targets at the Games. Handball was one of them, putting the GB programme and future Olympic appearances at risk.

"I'm disappointed by this but hopefully we can find funding from elsewhere. The public reaction has been amazing and I'm sure someone will want to tap into that - a commercial sponsor perhaps.

We won't take it lying down, we've worked too hard over the past six years to do that," he added.

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With thanks to British Handball for picture