Paul Brady is just emerging from the physio when he answers the phone. “More physio than training at the minute,” he says, in a voice that suggests he’s only half-joking.
It’s been a long year and his body is letting him know all about it. Perhaps at 39 and after a career than has seen him mix handball, inter-county football and club commitments almost non stop, some sort of blow back was inevitable.
Ever since he was forced to pull out of the World handball championships before the semi-finals, he’s been stuck in an argument with his body. It had been good to him in the early part of the year but his ankle gave out mid tournament while he’s also battling an elbow issue. In the midst of that, a hip problem has popped up.
“I had been going well up to August, trained really hard for seven months going into the worlds,” Brady said. “Maybe it is age but there’s bad luck too. I had been moving well enough to that point, it’s been frustrating.”
Still, he’s found a way to survive and flourish. Last year, his beloved Mullahoran lost their senior status in Cavan for the first time in 39 years. Brady has won three Cavan senior medals and the club are third in the roll of honour. Last year however, they didn’t win a game in league or championship.
The club found itself at a crossroads. The talent was coming – their minor team didn’t lose a game last year – but they just needed another push from the established players. Two weeks after relegation, they gathered and made a plan to regain senior status.
“I just thought we had a good crop coming through and they were after getting a baptism of fire in Division One and lost all the games. I thought Division Two and Intermediate would help us and thankfully that’s the way it worked out. We got a lot of older boys back and committed early, we started last October, pretty much straight after we went down we met two weeks later.
“Going down, it was bad but I knew we had the talent to get straight back up it just took hard work and that’s what we did. There was a kind of club-wide thing where we said if we stay down here like a lot of clubs, you could get stuck. You can keep going or get stuck and we made a plan to get back up.”
They swept through their league campaign and will contest the Division Two final next weekend. Tomorrow they’ll look to secure an Ulster club IFC against Antrim’s Naomh Eanna.
If it turns out to be a tight one, Mullahoran can be confident. They won their provincial quarter-final after extra-time and the semi after a free kick competition against Derry’s Banagher.
“We played Bredagh of Down and it went to extra time. Then we won 5-4 on free-kicks in the semi-final after two periods of extra time. Even within the group before the free-kicks we said ‘look we hadn’t lost.’ I hope Banagher take some consolation from that but it is a pretty cruel way to go out I have to say.”
Over the border from Mullahoran, Longford’s Mullinalaghta have blazed a trail through Leinster but Brady wants to bring the first provincial title back to the locality. Then after the league final, he’ll sit down to consider what’s next for his stellar handball career.
“I’ve quite a bad tear on the elbow so I’m in Santry meeting doctors there trying to get that sorted but hopefully … I probably would have left it at the Worlds but I had to pull out of the semi-final because of injury. So I may have left it at that point but I didn’t get the closure I wanted. So I’ll probably go back for a short stint again but after Christmas I’ll think about all that.
“I haven’t had time to digest that. As soon as I came back (from the Worlds) it was about trying to get into the club championship and to try get back going. After these two weeks I’ll think about all that.”
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