Five-time world handball champion Paul Brady goes in search of a record-equalling 11th US Nationals Open Singles title in Los Angeles on Saturday (8pm Irish time) when he meets Galway's Martin Mulkerrins in the final of what is arguably the sport's most prestigious 'Major'.
Should Brady win, it would crown a remarkable comeback. The 39-year-old won this title 10 times between 2005 and 2015 (missing out only due to injury in 2009) but has drawn a blank since, with the emergence of Boston-based Corkman Killian Carroll seeming to mark the end of the Brady era.
However, the Cavan man, who needs just one more win to tie the record held by Mexican legend Naty Alvarado Sr, has continued to compete in the showpiece event Stateside and has been in sensational form this week.
Brady cruised through the early rounds against Justin Bauer of Colorado, Californian Braulio Ruiz and Mexican Luis Cordova before dismantling veteran left-hander David Fink (21-1, 21-3) in Friday night's semi-final.
Standing in Brady’s way is 26-year-old Galway star Mulkerrins. The Moycullen man, who was the All-Ireland senior singles champion in 2018 and reached the final of last year’s World Championships, tore through the upper half of the draw before despatching Carroll with an awesome display on Friday night.
Mulkerrins’s powerful drives with both hands kept the Mallow native off balance and out of centre court. After winning the first 21-13, the Galwegian appeared to tire late in game two – a memorable 39-shot rally, which he won, certainly contributing to that – but he hung on to win and reach his second US Nationals decider.
Mulkerrins’s maiden final in the competition came six years ago today, when he ran into a prime Brady and got blitzed 21-3, 21-4.
Such a reversal is highly unlikely this evening. While Mulkerrins has certainly exerted himself more on the path to the final, he is 13 years the former Cavan footballer’s junior which should even things to an extent.
A final for the ages is expected, with Brady the favourite to tie the record currently held by ‘El Gato’ and affirm the widely-held view that he is the greatest player the sport has ever produced.