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Brady back in Pro Players' Championship action

18/11/2018 Clares Con Collins Picture Seamus Loughran
Tony McGee

The handball season in the US reaches an exciting climax in Salt Lake City, Utah, this weekend with the 2017-2018 R48 Men's and Women's Pro Players' Championships being decided for the 57th time as Cork pair Killian Carroll and Catriona Casey defend the titles.

Once more, it looks pretty certain that the Irish will dominate the competitions, as others from the Emerald Isle are spread throughout both the men's and women's events, including the qualifying rounds.

Paul Brady, a regular winner in the past, has entered for the first time in three years, after his super success on his comeback in New York last month but it is mighty strange to see that the Cavan man has to qualify this time for the Players' Championship.

It must be many years since he had to qualify for any tournament.

Brady first plays Nick Flores from Orlando and if he, as confidently expected, clears that hurdle he will have another contest before becoming the third qualifier and face Vic Perez (Los Angeles) in the bottom half of the draw.

Also in that sectioin of the qualifying draw are Tyrone teenager Sean Kerr, presently based in Boston, Peter Function (Roscommon) and Martin Mulkerrins (Galway), who is in the Qualifier 7 group and if he gets through will meet second seed Sean Lenning (Arizona).

World champion Leesider Killian Carroll is a three times defending champion and, naturally, is seeded No 1 with a quarter-final date ahead against either New York-based Stephen Cooney or Clare's Fergal Coughlan. Carroll suffered a shoulder injury in the R48 ProStop in New York but is hopeful that the problem is cured.

“For the last few weeks I've been trying to get my shoulder back to full health so I can only hope for the best and plan for the worst,” he told me.

“It's the last stop of the season, one last chance to show what everyone is made of on the pro circuit. I'm looking forward to playing and hopefully get a chance to get far enough to meet some of the other great handballers, such as Paul Brady, Martin Mulkerrins, Sean Kerr and Peter Function from Ireland.

“Preparation was as good as it was gonna be, it's more of a mental task when playing in between events.”

County colleague Catriona Casey is seeking her sixth consecutive success in the Players' Championship but it could be her stiffest test, so far. Once more, world champion Martina McMahon looms large in the draw but Casey's Irish championship defeat of her Limerick rival will be a boon to the holder.

Casey is No 1 seed with McMahon No 3 as Galwegian teenager Ciana Ní Churraoin, the reigning US Collegiate champion from Minnesota State University, is Seed No 2. Fiona Tully, from Roscommon, is in the top half of the draw along with Casey while Aoife McCarthy (Westmeath) is in the bottom half.

Also in the dzbottom half is Lurgan's Megan McCann who will meet McMahon if she gets past Ashley Molar (Arizona).

It would be no surprise if both the men's and women's finals will be an all-Irish affair but who will make the deciders is an open question.

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