Brady wins mental battle for fourth title

Thu, Oct 18, 2012, 01:00

GAELIC GAMES:KATIE TAYLOR is not the only current Irish world champion. Last Tuesday night in Citywest, Paul Brady captured his fourth handball title in a career that now enters postscript territory.

It was the manner in which the Cavan man dug deep that makes this finale so special. Brady is 33 years young. His opponent was Luis Moreno from Arizona. The rivalry has been described as handball’s answer to Roger Federer against Rafa Nadal.

Moreno certainly adopted the Nadal persona, going out to obliterate Brady in a ferocious opening blitz. He very nearly did so.

“I was down 12-1 and 13-2 but I kept coming back at him, just trying to catch him,” said Brady yesterday, having just peeled himself off the massage table on a welcome day off before the doubles begin. “Luis got such a good start. He was on fire, everything he was hitting was working out but there were so many (Irish) people there, I knew this was not a normal game for him.

“I just kept thinking if I can catch him everything will change. He went 19-12 up but I still knew. I eventually went 19-all and the crowd pushed me over the line after that.”

It became more psychological warfare than battle of agility? “Yeah, it was more mental than anything. I remember thinking, ‘hopefully I’ve broke him’ as he put up a bit of a fight at the start of the second game, but luckily enough I was able to pull away from him in the middle of the second game.”

The achievement didn’t get the exposure it undoubtedly deserved. As John 4:44 says: “For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country.” This is especially the case in a week when the media circled a wounded Giovanni Trapattoni and European rugby starts to gain momentum.

It also doesn’t help either that a long, hard GAA season has finally gone into hibernation. Because Brady remains deeply embroiled in the association through his club Mullahoran, who recently captured their first county title since 2006. He stopped playing for Cavan in 2010, having spent many years as a dual player, but the club still have a hold of him.

The first world title came in 2003 and Brady, much like Henry Shefflin in hurling, now has nine All-Ireland titles. He intends to finally step away from handball once he wins a 10th national title.

That will be him, as confirmed to Malachy Clerkin in The Irish Times a fortnight ago, done and dusted. “I have nine All-Ireland’s so if I get to 10, I will leave it at that. But I plan to keep playing in the States for the next two or three years. See where that takes me. It’s been a long decade playing so it is semi-retirement, I suppose. People tell me I will find it hard to stop but I am pretty adamant, you know, another six months and I’ll just play in the States. I’ll come home to play doubles.”

At 12.30pm today Brady and Michael Finnegan face the American duo Eric Hilgren and Billy O’Donnell in the world doubles quarter-final with the semi-final tonight and final tomorrow evening.

The circuit keeps going with the US Open in Los Angeles next week but that has caused a more pressing problem. Brady has a flight to LAX on Sunday, the same day Mullahoran face Errigal Ciarán at Kingspan Breffni Park in the Ulster club championship.

“I might change my flight yet and play but I have to stay focused on the doubles,” he explained. “I have to check the body but I wouldn’t like to miss it. We’re not there to make up the numbers. We drew Crossmaglen both times we won the county title in ’98 and 2006 so we see this as a home draw and a good opportunity to get our first win in the Ulster championship.”

As he talks, he warms to the idea of being involved, of being a winner at everything he does.

“If I’m about I’ll definitely start; just go all out. I want to play on Sunday so we’ll see how things go over the next few days to make it happens.”

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