Galway’s Martin Mulkerrins capped a hectic few weeks with a superb victory in the final of the Race4Eight pro tournament in Portland, Oregon last weekend, writes Paul Fitzpatrick.
The Moycullen man, who is currently based in Texas where he lectures and coaches the handball team at the famed Texas A&M University, defeated Luis Cordova 15-13, 15-5 in the final of the Portland Classic as he closes in on the number one spot in the rankings.
Mulkerrins was very happy to pick up an early tournament victory, having been at home in Ireland over the summer when he reached the All-Ireland senior finals in softball in singles and doubles.
"Delighted with the win, great start to the season. There was a bit of a break there over the summer, I played big alley just to keep the fitness levels up. I was back to the small court in early August when I came back out here. I’m delighted that the training is paying off and I was able to come out the right side of it and hopefully push on from here.
“The schedule for the season comes out pretty early, definitely a few months back. After the Nationals and World Championships in May, I went back home and I played the big court. Obviously I gave it my best but also I wanted to keep in touch and keep the fitness up,” Martin told GAAHandball.ie this week.
“And I suppose obviously having come back out here in August for another academic year to coach handball, I was fully focused back on the small court then again at that stage and training has been going well. And as I said, I was thankful that I was in good enough condition to get the result at the weekend.”
The Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland was a fitting backdrop for an excellent weekend of action involving the best players in the United States.
“The facility at the Multnomah Athletic Club is incredible, it’s just an unbelievable facility, probably one of the best that I’ve been to if not the best,” Mulkerrins said.
“I have a lot of good memories from there as well, the first time I ever came to the States was for the World Championships in 2009 which were held there and obviously there have been a good few tournaments in the meantime – the Collegiate Nationals have been held there, the US Nationals, the pro stop last year – so I’m pretty used to the facility although that said, the left glass wall is tricky everywhere.
“Maybe being early in the season as well, the eye wasn’t fully in in the first round or two but thankfully by the semi-final and final, I had adjusted pretty well to the glass as well.”
Combining coaching with work and travelling for exhibitions and competitions is not easy but Mulkerrins is really enjoying the experience. Helping rookie players out means he spends a lot of time using a softer ball but he has learned to balance that and make sure his game is fine-tuned for his own events.
“There are challenges there but look, it’s great, compared to being sitting down during Covid and having to lecture over Zoom or Teams, being able to go out and be physically active coaching handball, teaching handball classes, you’re on your feet, you’re in the courts, it’s much better.
“I suppose one thing you really have to adjust to when you’re coaching beginner players is that when you’re trying to bring them along and help them, you’re playing quite a bit with the big ball.
“And also, playing to their level as well to help them develop, that can be a bit of a challenge, just making sure that you’re hitting the right shots yourself when it comes to the top level.
“But I’m really enjoying it, there has been a lot of travel the last few weeks, going to Alaska for exhibition clinics three or four weeks ago, then we had a tournament in Austin, then I had to go back to Ireland for a friend’s wedding the week before last and then Portland this week. And we’re hosting our own tournament here this weekend so it’s been all go but it’s great, it’s a great opportunity to travel, see different places.”
Next up for Mulkerrins on the pro tour is the Tucson Memorial event, which will see a number of other Irish players make the trip to arguably the handball capital of America.
“Tucson is the next pro stop on the Race4Eight pro tour, that won’t be until the first weekend of November so that’s the next priority now,” he said.
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