Known throughout the world of handball for his genius, the great Pat Kirby returned home to Tuamgraney where it all began ,from Tucson, Arizona, to witness the unveiling of a spectacular monument depicting the legend in action.
As part of the club’s centenary year celebrations last weekend, they honoured the Clare man who dominated both courts simultaneously like no other from 1974 to 1980 when he captured ten All-Ireland senior singles titles.
Kirby won his first senior crown at the age of 38 and had spent the previous years in the states playing and mixing it with the best in the USA, namely Jimmy Jacobs who later managed boxing sensation, Mike Tyson to a world title.
“When I came home, it was a great era for handball when there were a dozen to fifteen players who could win on any given day. I learned a lot from Jimmy Jacobs who helped me greatly and particularly with the psychology side of the game. I always felt that my opponents were my friends and that the ball was my enemy,” said Kirby.
“I have many great memories from this club and watched some great players like Victor Sherlock play here. One of my great feats was winning the Clare County minor title at the age of 12 and I went on to win 6 in a row.”
“All the medals mean little to me. I loved winning and making friends, meeting great people like Mohamed Ali and travelling the world.
I’m so proud of the Tuamgraney club and the way it is today and it’s great that I played some part in that,” he said.
GAA Handball president and former All-Ireland senior winner, Meath’s Walter O’Connor paid tribute when he said, “I watched Pat play Joey Maher in the world senior final in 1970 in Croke Park and that shaped my life in handball. Everyone in handball worshiped Pat and the Kirby family.”