by Paul Fitzpatrick.
You come at the king, as they say in The Wire, you best not miss.
It's amazing to think that only two handballers in the world – Luis Moreno and young Californian gunslinger Armando Ortiz – hold a singles win over the peerless Paul Brady, and both defeats have been avenged several times over since by the Breffni maestro.
Today (FRI), another pretender to the throne gets his shot at the big time when 21-year-old Cork star Killian Carroll enters the court for the World Championships Open Singles final in Calgary, Canada.
The decider – 6pm Irish time, live streamed free at www.race4eight.com – has the makings of a classic. There's the celebrated warrior, looking to conquer them all just one more time; there's the hungry, hustling kid, desperate to wear the crown.
In the blue corner is arguably the greatest player the sport has produced. Defending champion Brady, on a 'drive for five' after winning the triennial event four times in succession, booked his place in the decider with a 21-12, 21-7 dismantling of Team Ireland captain Robbie McCarthy last evening and will enter today's decider as hot favourite.
Before a ball was struck, McCarthy spoke to the press and sent out tight message - “I'm no longer afraid of playing Brady,” he said, “he's only human.”
By 6.30pm last evening, he may have been re-considering that statement as Brady again found a way to win.
This time, he wasn't at his mesmerising best but, as he told reporters on the eve of his departure, losing is not an option. He ground it out, pummelled McCarthy into submission with explosive power and relentless aggression.
The feeling is that, despite crushing Minnesota's Ryan Pesch and Kildare's Niall O'Connor and fairly comfortably coming through against Charly Shanks and McCarthy, there is more in Brady.
The suspicion, though, is that Carroll – who could, in the racing parlance, be anything – is primed and ready to detonate.
When the smoke cleared after a riotous quarter-final against American no 1 Luis Moreno – the complexion of which was pockmarked by some terrible refereeing – Carroll, remarkably, was the one still standing, still with enough pop in his right arm to serve two aces to win the match.
He followed up with a flawless performance last evening [THURS] in dismissing lefty Diarmaid Nash 21-13, 21-19 – an actuary from Clare who is smart and brave and was playing great handball – in the other semi-final.
So, the indications are there will be no stage fright on the part of the Cork man, who was just six years old when Brady – at the age Carroll is now – reached the semi-final of the 2000 Worlds in Chicago, losing to the legendary American John Bike.
The clash of styles, on the face of it, looks intriguing, the Breffni man's explosive power in contrast to the Rebel youngster's incredible speed and retrieving.
Carroll plays very much in the style of his smooth, cat-like mentor Tony Healy, now retired; Brady, though, just keeps on keeping on and even after a dozen years at the top, still sets the bar.
To beat him, Carroll must raise it.
Is that possible? Well, we've never seen a smarter, gutsier, handballer than Paul Brady – no-one has. When he brings war, opponents invariably scuttle for cover from the heavy shelling. Expect Carroll to revel in the trenches, to dig out ungettable pass shots, to make his fair share of kills and confirm his status as the heir apparent.
For now, though, there can only be one and our friend Omar in The Wire said it best, again: The king stay the king.
It's Brady's to lose.