After spending several months building up for an assault on the wallball 23&U and Open Doubles (one gold, one silver) at the World Championships, Limerick's Paudi Quish is back playing the code he grew up with, 60x30 softball, writes Paul Fitzpatrick.
Quish, a former minor and intermediate champion, had an eye-catching 21-12, 21-7 win over Offaly's David Hope last time out to book his place in his first 60x30 Senior Singles semi-final, which was quite an achievement considering the Hospital clubman had only returned to the big court a few shorts weeks before that match.
Having focused on wallball all season, his focus quickly turned to the red ball and he made the adjustment easily, he explained.
"My traditional code was always 60x30 so it wasn't much of a switch over for me," Quish told GAAHandball.ie.
"I always brought a lot of my 60x30 shots into One Wall anyway so it didn't take that long to re-adjust. I had two or three weeks and I was in the alley two or three times a day getting back to the feel of the ball.
"I was already flat out with one wall training over the summer so I was fit from that so all I had to focus on was getting the touch back in for the big alley and thankfully it came quickly enough to be on point for the match with David."
While the opening exchanges were cagey, Quish got on top midway through game one against the Offaly man and rode his momentum to a straight games win.
"The two of us were hitting form early on, it was close, three-all, four-all, five-all, six-all, and then my killshots started coming off and I started picking some shots. Things started to go my way and I kind of broke away and got to 16. I kind of got stuck there for a bit, David got a second wind I think and started pulling off some great shots and killing well in the left corner," stated the Limerick-based schoolteacher.
"Luckily I broke away again and I won 21-12 but it took a toll on both of us, the first game was a fast-paced game, and I think it took more of a toll on David than it did on me and I got away to a better start in the second game.
"I had a comfortable lead and I was able to throw in a few shots that I wouldn't normally go for and I was lucky enough that they came off. I was happy enough coming out of it."
Fresh blood is sorely needed in the big court and Quish sees himself as something of a throwback player. Asked to describe his style of play, he said: "A couple of people have described my big alley game as traditional, I like to move in and take the ball on the fly, the same as I do with One Wall. I like to cut the ball out of the air. Over the years I have learned from players like Robbie and Eoin, putting different spins on it but mainly
"I like to step in on the fly and do my best to put it away from my opponent."
And competing at the elite end of the wallball game has helped, too; Quish has introduced some wallball shots to his big alley arsenal, he explained.
"I have, there are a few shots. Every now and again you can throw in an overhand shot into either corner and hope for the best but the One Wall has really brought on my paddle shots in both corners. I've been watching other players doing that over the years and never really taken to it but with all the training in the One Wall, I thought I might start using it and it worked fairly well against David, I was able to paddle the ball into both corners. That's definitely one shot I have brought into my game."
While Hope, another former intermediate champion, represented a stern test, they don't come any tougher than Robbie McCarthy, whom Quish faces tomorrow (Saturday) at HQ. He's aware of the enormity of the challenge lying before him but excited, too, particularly about the return to Croker and the opportunity to carry the family colours into battle once more.
"Robbie is one of the best players who has ever played 60x30 and I have done a lot of training with him over the past four or five years. When I won my two minors and the intermediate, Robbie was there training with me. I have nothing but respect for the man but I'm going to focus on the game that I am going to play.
"As I said, he's one of the best that has ever played the big alley and you can't take that away from him but at the end of the day I can't control how he is going to perform, I can only control how I am going to perform and that's the attitude I'm going to take into the game and hopefully put on a good performance.
"I've always referred to Croke Park as the theatre of dreams. When the finals were moved to Abbeylara and Williamstown, nothing against the clubs but the atmosphere wasn't the same. There's something special about playing in Croke Park. Obviously growing up in a traditional 60x30 family, I've always dreamed of playing in Croke Park and continuing on the name in Croke Park."
As for the future? Regardless of how tomorrow's match goes, Quish believes he is on the right track.
"This year the goal was to get to the semi-final of the 60x30 and I've fulfilled that. Who knows how the game might go on Saturday, things could go our way but I'm hoping that I can put in a good performance and can continue making it to Croke Park.
"You always have to have that mentality. I've always felt I was up there with the best of them coming into the beginning of every championship. I was hoping that the draw would work in my favour, being such a low seed. Who knows what the future holds. I'm mad to keep training in the big alley., the way the one wall falls with the European Tour and the worlds this year it kind of impacts on my big alley training.
"But thank God I've had a good foundation fitness-wise from the Worlds and the transition has been fairly smooth so far."
Saturday 15th September 2018, Croke Park HC, Dublin, 2pm
Ladies Senior Singles – SF1
- Cork (Catriona Casey) v Cork (Aishling O’Keeffe)
Men’s Senior Singles – SF1
- Dublin (Eoin Kennedy v Meath (Gary McConnell)
Ladies Senior Singles – SF2
- Kilkenny (Ciara Mahon) v Limerick (Martina McMahon)
Men’s Senior Singles – SF2
- Limerick (Paudi Quish) v Westmeath (Robbie McCarthy)