Team Ireland sparkle in Wexford

GAA Handball Ireland President Willie Roche and National Manager John Kelly were among the large attendance at St. Josephs Community Centre in Wexford yesterday when the Irish team preparing for their upcoming trip to the World Handball championships in Calgary, Canada were put through their paces for the final time.

The full squad (with the exception of Aisling O’Reilly who was unwell) were present at the venue throughout the day and while some of the matchups were clearly designed to facilitate practise and provide advice for the younger team members, there were many glimpses of the outstanding condition and readiness of this squad to once again do Team Ireland proud and bring home the lion’s share of the winners medals.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the case of Paul Brady. The Mullahoran player looked in awesome shape and appeared ready to conquer the world for an almost unthinkable fifth time in succession. His sheer control of the handball with either hand is uncanny and if there is (or has been) an Irish sportsman or sportswoman in any sport closer to perfection, this writer has yet to see them. There too was the outstanding Catriona Casey from Cork who will lead the Wall Ball team, but who is also certain to push the aforementioned reigning champion Aisling O’Reilly all the way in the women’s open singles. Watching her train in Wexford yesterday invited opinion as to how she would fare against the men and while that is a debate for another day, there is no doubt that O’Reilly and Casey in particular have raised womens handball to a level many believed was not possible.

Could they get even better if we pitted them against the men at an appropriate level?

Taking his place amongst the elite at St. Josephs was Wexford’s Daniel Kavanagh who won the right earlier this year to represent Ireland at 17 & under in Calgary. A winner of 13 and under doubles when the event was staged at the CityWest three years ago, he will carry the mantle of official team member in Canada and the good wishes of the handball community will go with him.

The championships will run from 11-21 August.