By Paul Fitzpatrick
The greatest Irish sportsman you may never have heard of – world handball champion Paul Brady – did it again at the weekend, routing a world-class field in California to affirm his status as the greatest player in the history of the sport.
And the truly incredible thing is that, at 35, the former Cavan footballer appears to be getting even better, with the ESPN commentary team opining after his latest win that only an injury could put a halt to the Cavanman’s dominance.
Brady’s astonishing run of success Stateside continued at the famous Olympic club in San Francisco when he once again romped to an emphatic win in the latest leg of the WPH Race4Eight pro tour, which was broadcast live on the Watch ESPN app to an audience of tens of thousands.
Brady entered the tournament as no 1 seed and he lived up to his billing by overwhelming a field including the best players in America and Mexico along with Galway Gaelgeoir Martin Mulkerrins and New York-based Mayo man Stephen Cooney.
Brady opened with a 14-minute dismantling of Arizona’s Abe Montijo, winning 15-0, 15-4 in record time. Next up was Seattle’s Sean Lenning, a player with an unorthodox style who gave Brady some trouble in the past and has recently shown signs of returning to his best form.
Lenning, a former World Series of Poker qualifier and child prodigy who first qualified for the pro tour aged 16, was rated as the Americans’ best hope but Brady never gave him a chance to settle, winning 15-3, 15-4 with a devastating display. Next up was left-hander David Fink, a native of Pittsburgh who had played well in overcoming the powerful Mando Ortiz, a Californian who had recorded a rare win over Brady last season.
However, Brady brushed Fink aside 15-2, 15-10 to set up a final against Emmet Peixoto.
Peixoto, a Philosophy graduate and musician who is employed as a full-time handball coach in the Olympic club, was roared on by a partisan home crowd but just could not cope with Brady’s intensity in game one, going down 15-7.
Peixoto (31), arguably the fastest player in the sport, improved in game two but Brady closed it out 15-10 with some magnificent serves. The victory is Brady’s fourth of the season following successes in Tuscon, Los Angeles and Houston and he returns to the US for the New York stop next month, prior to the tour finale in Salt Lake City in April.
“Paul Brady has had two losses in 10 years of tournament play and none this season on the Race4Eight pr tour. He is just blowing out everybody on the circuit,” stated Fink, who doubles as an analyst for ESPN.
Meanwhile, Catriona Casey’s Bradyesque dominance on the ladies tour continued when the 21-year-old Cork woman shredded the field, winning the final on an unprecedented 15-0, 15-0 scoreline against Canadian Jessica Gawley. Leading American handball promoter Dave Vincent was quoted in the Irish Examiner last week stating that, even at her tender years, Casey – a student in UL – is already “the greatest female player to have ever lived”; on the evidence of this weekend, Vincent may not be too far off.
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WPH San Francisco Wrap Up from World Players of Handball (WPH) on Vimeo.