Just about keeping all the balls in the air
HANDBALL:As he enters his last world championships, Paul Brady is that bit more relaxed while still in search of perfection
THIS WASN’T supposed to happen. It wasn’t part of the plan. By now, Paul Brady was meant to be tapering down and zoning in. Nobody has ever won four world 40x20 handball titles in a row before – indeed, only Brady himself has ever won three – and this one, starting next weekend in Citywest, will be his attempt at a final curtain.
It’s a chance to walk off the world stage as the greatest player the sport has ever seen and, crucially, to do so in Ireland, rounding out the circle that started with his first title in Croke Park back in 2003.
His schedule this week should be ticking off nothing more than training, eating and rest.
But life gets in the way. With time just about up in last Sunday’s Cavan county final and a point between the teams, referee Joe McQuillan pinged the Kingscourt goalkeeper for time-wasting on the game’s last kick-out.
He hopped the ball on the 14-metre line and although Brady came up with the break, he was mystified when he heard a whistle and saw McQuillan give his side Mullahoran a free-in to draw the game.
“I didn’t know until after that somebody came in and punched the hop ball, even though they weren’t one of the two boys that it was thrown up between. So we got a free and now we have the replay on Sunday. It’s probably a bit of a distraction.
“But it’s a very emotional thing. People who don’t play GAA probably wouldn’t understand it and would be asking, ‘well, why are you playing at all’? And actually, if I was younger, I probably would have left it. But, realistically, it’s probably my last chance at a county title.
“I’m 33, just turned 33 a couple of weeks ago. I’m not going to play any more after this. If we win I’ll play another year, but that will be it. It’s just not worth it.”
Mullahoran haven’t won a county title since 2006. Go further back and their 1998 title is the only one they’ve won since the early 1960s. A replay in Breffni Park tomorrow after they pulled it out of the fire the last day is a Kavanagh-style epic, gods making their own importance.
In other years, Brady has put so much of himself into the pursuit of perfection on a handball court that he’s been able to detach a little. Not this time though. He’s lived in Dublin for most of the last decade, but moved home earlier this year to be about the house as his mother overcame illness.